A teenager from Flushing who has been battling leukemia since 2015 was given something to be truly thankful for two days before Thanksgiving.
Alexander Castillo, 19, was granted a wish by the Make-A-Wish Foundation: a nonprofit organization that arranges experiences for children who are struggling with life-threatening illnesses. After some consideration on what to wish for, Castillo decided on a relaxing trip with his family at a luxury resort in Hawaii.
Castillo, a graduate of Bayside High School, has been a patient at Northwell Health’s Cohen Children’s Medical Center since his diagnosis.
On Nov. 22, Castillo and his family were met at the door of the Northwell Health headquarters in New Hyde Park by a welcoming party of hospital staff in a grand send-off to vacation celebration. Castillo was presented with a colorful lei and the party then moved upstairs to a room partially decorated like a Hawaiian tropical resort to celebrate his upcoming vacation.
“It’s my pleasure to welcome everybody today, particularly our two special guests,” said Jeff Kraut, executive vice president for strategy and analytics at Northwell Health. “We’re really excited this particular week of Thanksgiving that we have this opportunity to share with you your send-off and your wishes and we’re grateful for being able to participate.”
Kraut explained that the entire employee system was involved in the process, organizing various raffles, events and fundraising efforts to help make Castillo’s wish come true.
“Our mission is to bring hope, strength and joy to children and their families with life threatening medical conditions,” said Phil Lussier, Make-A-Wish Metro New York and Western New York CEO and father of a previous wish recipient. “Our vision is to reach every eligible child. And in order for us to do that, its partnering with healthcare organizations [like Northwell] and reaching out.”
Castillo was referred to the Make-A-Wish foundation by Ingrid McFarlane: an oncology social worker at Northwell.
When asked how he felt when receiving word he would be granted a wish, Castillo said he was overwhelmed with thanks.
“I was excited and grateful. I thanked God for the opportunity to be a part of it,” Castillo said.
Northwell also gave Castillo merchandise from his two favorite teams: the Dallas Cowboys and the Kansas City Royals. When asked why he favors the two teams, Castillo displayed a bright sense of humor in spite of experiencing so much at a young age.
“My dad likes the Cowboys, so I choose the Cowboys; I grew up with them. And the Royals: I just like winning teams,” Castillo said with a smile.
Castillo said he is most excited to spend quality time with his family on the trip and swim in Hawaiian waters. He will take the trip with his mom, grandma, aunt, cousin and friend.
“Everybody has struggles. You just have to power through them,” Castillo said.
Seraphina O’Brien, a 10-year-old girl from Port Washington, was also granted a wish by the foundation. She will go on a a trip to Disneyland Paris with her family.
The Make-A-Wish foundation has granted over 270,000 wishes since its inception in 1980.