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Teen’s wish supports RR health-care workers

Sam Neale, Make-A-Wish New Mexico “wish kid” and Albuquerque resident, gives an interview Wednesday with registered nurse Shawna Sanchez, who unknowingly inspired him to use his wish to put together kits for health-care workers, at Presbyterian Rust Medical Center. Sanchez received the first kit at her home that morning, and said she was encouraged to see she made a difference for Neale. Photo by Argen Marie Duncan.

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Inspired by the care he received from an oncology nurse, a 17-year-old used his wish from Make-A-Wish New Mexico to give workers at Presbyterian Rust Medical Center and two Albuquerque hospitals kits to help them disinfect after work and have an easier time getting meals.

Albuquerque resident Sam Neale was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2019, and registered nurse Shawna Sanchez helped care for him at Presbyterian Hospital in downtown Albuquerque during his five months of chemotherapy. Now, he’s in remission, and Sanchez works at Presbyterian Rust.

When Make-A-Wish connected with him, Neale wished to give back to health-care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic because he appreciated Sanchez’s work, kindness and humor. With sponsorships from the Jennifer Riordan Foundation and Shawna and Clay Holderman of Rio Rancho, and donated items from the community, Neale and his supporters compiled 120 full-size kits and about 100 smaller ones.

“Sam’s Wish Kits” contain items such as bleach, hand sanitizer, spray bottles and face masks, to help keep health-care workers and their families healthy, and gift cards to local grocery stores and restaurants.

On Wednesday, Sanchez received the first kit at her home. Then, Neale, his family, Make-A-Wish representatives, Jennifer Riordan Foundation representatives and Albuquerque police officers and firefighters caravanned to Rust, where the Holdermans met them. Rio Rancho Police motorcycle officers led the entourage up to Rust.

The caravan then delivered kits to Lovelace Medical Center and University of New Mexico Hospital.

Presbyterian Healthcare Services employees wait at Presbyterian Rust Medical Center for the arrival of Sam Neale, a Make-A-Wish New Mexico client whose wish was to provide sanitation kits to health-care workers. Presbyterian Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Clay Holderman, far right, a Rio Rancho resident, and his wife, Shawna, not shown, helped sponsor the wish. Photo by Argen Marie Duncan.

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