Make-a-Wish Foundation delivers on its name

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 14, 2006

SOUTH POINT — Andrew Conley was ready to jump on his large wooden play set even before crews had all the bells and whistles in place.

The 5-year-old peeked around the corner at the crew putting it together with an anxious look on his freckled face. When he got the nod, the first thing he wanted to do was get on the bright banana slide. He squealed with delight and shook his hands in the air with excitement.

On Wednesday, Andrew got to be like other healthy, active kids his age, something that his mom, Michelle, describes as a miracle.

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The Make-a-Wish Foundation of Southern Ohio delivered the Conley family a play set for Andrew’s use. The set was not the ordinary backyard jungle gym; in fact it would put most of them to shame. It was a set with a lookout tower and three different sections used for climbing and swinging.

Michelle Conley said having the play set was a wish they had been hoping for the past year. She said her son has been through a lot and she and her husband, Mike, wanted to get him something that would last his entire lifetime and celebrate his love of the outdoors.

“We could have gone on a trip to Disney World or something like that, but he would probably never remember that,” she explained. “This is something that is going to benefit him in so many ways and it’s going to last.”

Andrew’s health problems started at a young age, in fact, his mother knew he would have a severe heart defect before he was born — a doctor found the problem during an ultrasound. Andrew had a heart transplant at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital when he was just two weeks old. He was one of the youngest transplant patients at the hospital, according to his family.

The family was dealt another blow when Andrew was diagnosed with cancer a nearly two years ago, Conley said. He had a volleyball-sized tumor that had grown so much it affected some of his other organs. Andrew underwent two surgeries, but finished chemotherapy last summer and has been in recovery since. He still is developmentally delayed, Conley said, but goes to therapy sessions. Andrew’s immune system is also weakened and prevents him from going out much.

“He’s our miracle child,” she said smiling. “I was never going to give up on him. Through it all, God was right there with us and he continues to be.”

She said her belief in a higher power and prayers from her church family at Sheridan Freewill Baptist helped the family pull through the dark days. Conley said everyday she feels blessed that she has her son — her only child.

“We’ve been through a lot, but it has brought us closer,” she said.

Conley hopes Andrew will be able to start preschool in the fall.

Although the Make-a-Wish Foundation grants many types of wishes, Conley said a play set was ideal for her son. She said it will help his physical development and also give him a chance to be in his backyard more often.

“He just loves to be out here,” the stay-at-home mom said as she watched Andrew climb on the play set. “He could be out here from morning until night.”

Make-a-Wish contracted with Recreations Outlet of Cincinnati to purchase, deliver and assemble the set. The three-man team came Wednesday afternoon. It was the first time the company had fulfilled a wish for the organization, according to Bryce Kuhn, supervisor of the project.

He said Andrew’s play set was the nicest he had ever installed in the nearly four years he has been on the job.

“It’s a very worthwhile thing for us,” Kuhn said. “It’s something that makes us feel good. It’s great to be able to do this for a child.”