A Rio Rancho 13-year-old with a nerve disorder is going deep-sea fishing with his family, thanks to Make-A-Wish New Mexico and the local Big O Tires store.
Big O Tires in Rio Rancho donated $6,000 to Make-A-Wish, which the foundation is using to send Rio Rancho Middle School student Clayton Brack, his parents and his three siblings to Costa Rica for a week. The store hosted a send-off party for them Thursday.
Clayton’s mother, Jennifer Brack, thanked Big O Tires, Make-A-Wish and people who donated to the cause.
“It’s an amazing foundation that is life-changing,” she said. “And we’re very humbled and appreciative and excited.”
Make-A-Wish is “taking something that’s super sad and difficult, and giving us a silver lining and something to look forward to,” Jennifer said.
The itinerary for the upcoming trip includes not only deep-sea fishing for a rooster fish, found only in Costa Rican waters, but also a waterfall excursion, snorkeling, hiking in the rainforest, learning to make chocolate and a visit to a frog farm.
Clayton said his uncle fishes a lot and inspired him to want to fish more than the few times he’s tried it.
“I don’t think I’ll eat any of the fish,” he said.
Clayton is eligible for Make-A-Wish services because he has a degenerative nerve disorder.
“My brain has a hard time talking to my legs, so we’re getting a trip for that,” Clayton said.
Make-A-Wish New Mexico Chief Development Officer Sydney Graczyk said the foundation serves children with a critical illness, but not necessarily terminal illnesses.
“It has touched our hearts to think of Clayton and his dreams, so we all agreed we wanted to do this for him and his family,” said Keith Blake, owner of Big O Tires in Rio Rancho.
Big O Tires spokesman Eric Edgerton said the franchise in New Mexico has grown enough in the past five years that the community-support fund shared among the stores has enough money for larger projects like granting wishes.
“Big O’s a big supporter of the community,” he said.
Make-A-Wish program coordinator Marissa Gonzales said the foundation paired the Bracks with Big O because of timing, location and the type of wish. Graczyk said Big O franchises around the nation have partnered with Make-A-Wish.
Clayton said the foundation is important because it helps kids who are having a hard time feel happier.
“I want them to have as much fun as I think I’m going to have,” he said.
The trip was originally planned for December. The family had to delay it because doctors found a tumor in Clayton’s abdomen and the surgery to remove part of it resulted in complications, said his father, Brian Brack.
He added that the prospect of the trip, which the family couldn’t take without Make-A-Wish, helped Clayton get through that difficult time. The teen is now healthy, Jennifer said.
Graczyk said granted wishes aren’t a cure, but children often draw strength from them and see them as a turning point.
“We’ve had a few doctors say a wish should be part of their medical treatment,” she said.