During stays in the hospital while he sought treatment for Lymphoma, 11-year-old Ben Bontrager and his father, Jeff Bontrager, frequently talked about what wish Ben would want granted by the …
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During stays in the hospital while he sought treatment for Lymphoma, 11-year-old Ben Bontrager and his father, Jeff Bontrager, frequently talked about what wish Ben would want granted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“There were a lot of days in the hospital and some of them were awful and it was just a bit of a light,” said Jeff.
On April 20, Bontrager got to see his wish start to come true as Golden High School students got in their cars for a parade to honor him. Ben finished his last chemotherapy treatment nearly a year ago.
The parade, which was scheduled to be held on April 18 but had to be rescheduled because of weather, was supposed to kick off the school’s annual Wish Week, a week of fundraising activities to grant the wishes of kids who have faced critical illnesses in partnership with the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
While this was the fourth time Golden High School has held a Wish Week, this year’s event was particularly special because Ben lives in Golden and attends nearby Fairmount Elementary while his brother, Ethan, is a student at Golden High School.
“I think this year has a lot more excitement because Ben is very local to us and his brother is in my class so I think that makes it very exciting and a lot more personal to our community,” said Tea Del Grippo, who was one of the student organizers of this year’s Wish Week.
Of course, this year’s Wish Week also presented new challenges as students had to contend with starting to plan the event, a process that began in November, during a pandemic that saw all of the school’s students attending in-person just part time — or not at all.
“Most of the time our events are inside but because of COVID we had to move everything outside,” said Senior Class President Devyn Schaefer. “And then obviously weather hasn’t really been our friend the past few days so that has probably been our biggest challenge with the outdoor events.”
However, the need to move things outside also created an opportunity to start a new parade tradition. During the parade, Ben rode in a firetruck that led the long line of cars on a route that traveled down Ford Street before the school before turning onto 21st Street and then onto Jackson to return back to the school, where Ben then got out of the truck to watch and waive to the rest of the parade.
“I would never have expected this to happen,” Ben said. “I was already surprised when there was a small parade in my neighborhood but I never would have expected to be Make-A-Wish kid for Golden High School so I am really excited that I can do this.”
However, the parade is just the beginning for Bontrager, who made the wish to go to the Aulani Resort in Hawaii in his family. To help fund that wish, Golden High School set the goal of raising $40,000 over the course of the week, which ended on April 23. Last year, the school raised more than $45,000 during Wish Week.
“It’s been really nice to see everybody’s support and being flexible and willing to work with everything,” said Tegan Starick, who has been part of the team that organizes Wish Week since her sophomore year. “It’s just really cool to see everybody show up and contribute despite these crazy times.”
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