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Wish of appreciation

Sam Neale in the Sandias. The 17-year-old’s wish is to provide health care workers with personal care kits and gift cards. (Courtesy of the Neale family)

Sam Neale was diagnosed with cancer after breaking his leg skiing. (Courtesy of the Neale family)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Seventeen-year-old Sam Neale could have asked for almost anything – a dream trip or a state-of-the-art gaming system – after being diagnosed with cancer last year.

But the Eldorado High School junior instead asked Make-a-Wish New Mexico to allow him to give back to those who helped him through one of the scariest parts of his life.

His wish is to shower health care workers with personal care kits, as well as gift cards, as they continue doing their jobs through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The staff at Presbyterian (Hospital) was really great,” he said. “They helped me through chemo. They kind of helped me get back to normal.”

“The care received, from the nurses, doctors to (the) therapists and folks in the coffee shop, was amazing,” said his father, Tom Neale. “They were all really positive. They made Sam feel comfortable … . That really meant a lot to us.”

Sam was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after breaking his leg skiing. His dad described the news as “gut-wrenching” for him and Sam’s mother, Pam.

The teenager went through five months of chemotherapy and spent 40 nights in the hospital. Sam is now in remission.

‘We are proud’

“We are proud of the way Sam handled it,” his father said. “He had a positive attitude and kept a sense of humor. He handled it with courage and grace. … We were so impressed with what he wanted to do with his wish. We are so proud of him.”

Sam’s goal now is to provide health care workers with 100 kits – what Make-a-Wish calls #samswishkits.

“But I’d like to go beyond that,” he said. “I’d like to see this catch on.”

He wants the kits to include things that would help health care workers “when they get ready to go home; things like washable bags they can put their street clothes in, bandannas to help hold their masks … hygiene and health products.”

Other items would include bleach to create a cleaning solution to disinfect their shoes, removable and washable seat covers, spray bottles (with measurements), shoe covers, laundry detergent, anti-bacterial soap, disinfectant wipes, lotion, hand sanitizer, ribbons with buttons and gift cards, according to a list provided by Make-a-Wish.

“We are in awe of Sam’s selfless act, and we hope the community will join us in making #samswishkits for 100 health care heroes,” Sara Lister, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish New Mexico, said in a news release.

The community can participate by dropping off items at the following locations and dates: 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Thursday at iHeartMedia parking lot, 5411 Jefferson NE; 1-4 p.m. Tuesday at Dave & Busters, 2100 Louisiana NE; and 1-4 p.m. Wednesday at the Cottonwood Mall main entrance in front of Ulta, 10,000 Coors Bypass NW.

Make-a-Wish is partnering with the Jennifer Riordan Foundation, and Presbyterian Hospital Executive Vice President and System Chief Operating Officer Clay Holderman and his wife, Shawna.

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