Cody Green is an 11-year-old who likes fighter jets, aircraft carriers, and gymnastics. In June 2019, Cody was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, a rare form of blood cancer in which the body …
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Cody Green is an 11-year-old who likes fighter jets, aircraft carriers, and gymnastics. In June 2019, Cody was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, a rare form of blood cancer in which the body no longer makes enough healthy blood cells in the bone marrow.
After his diagnosis, Cody’s family sent his story to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps children with critical illnesses fulfill extraordinary wishes. Cody’s wish: to spend a few days on board an aircraft carrier.
Though feasible, Cody’s wish would require a fair amount of capital to bring to life. After all, renting out an aircraft carrier doesn’t come cheap. Enter Ralston Valley High School.
For the past 10 years, Ralston Valley has held an annual Wish Week, a student-led fundraising effort to raise money for Make-A-Wish Colorado. A statewide program, Make-A-Wish Colorado pairs participating schools across Colorado with local-area kids who have yet to see their wish fulfilled. This year Cody, an Arvada resident, was paired up with Ralston Valley.
This year, the Ralston Valley raised over $53,000 for Make-A-Wish Colorado — breaking the school’s previous Wish Week fundraising record of $41,000, set in 2020. The tenth iteration of Wish Week, which took place from Feb. 1st to Feb. 11th, came with a unique set of challenges — namely, how to host a large community fundraiser safely amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Fortunately, Ralston Valley senior Madi Nelson and her Wish Week committee had a plan.
Nelson, a three-year member of Ralston Valley’s student government, has been on the Wish Week committee for the entirety of her term, but was able to step into more of a leadership role as a senior this year.
Nelson said that the Wish Week committee — which is overseen by faculty adviser Jenny Braketa — came up with enough ideas for events to withstand ever-changing public health guidelines that have become the norm throughout the Coronavirus pandemic.
“We came up with lists and lists of ideas from past fundraisers that we’ve done before and tried to incorporate those virtually,” said Nelson. “And we planned to be completely virtual and then, at the last minute, they announced that we would be in person. It was one of our first weeks back (in person). So, we moved some of the events to be in person, which was pretty great.
“We started brainstorming crazy ideas that we had never done before,” Nelson continued. “We ran it by our teachers, our principal, and Jefferson County officials to see what we could do and honestly a lot of our ideas got knocked down just because of restrictions related to COVID and safety precautions. But the things that we were able to do we just kept going with it and created something that was completely new and like nothing we had done before.”
Some of the events Ralston Valley put on for this year’s Wish Week included a wing eating contest, “Kiss the Lama” (exactly what it sounds like), and a class gymnastics competition judged by Cody himself.
The Wish Week festivities concluded with a virtual assembly video that featured scenes from the week’s events, updates on wish recipients from years past, and a message of encouragement for Cody from the student body.
Cody, a 2019 level four state champion gymnast, said he used an appropriate scoring system to declare the winner of the gymnastics competition.
“The gymnastics (event) was one of my favorites,” said Cody. “I saw someone do a backflip and they were using the correct form, and I chose them. And we figured out that the person that was doing it used to go to 5280 (Gymnastics), the gym I used to be at.”
In Aug. 2019, Cody received a bone marrow transplant that his body rejected. But in Nov. of the same year, Cody got a second bone marrow transplant. This time, the transplant was successful.
While he still deals with consistent check-ups and physical therapy, Cody has his sights set on returning to gymnastics, potentially as early as this summer. As for his wish, Cody might see that come to fruition in the near future thanks to Ralston Valley’s fundraiser.
“Why I want to stay on an aircraft carrier is because I’m really into planes and how they work,” said Cody. “I also saw a YouTube video where Dude Perfect was playing basketball and staying on the aircraft carrier for three nights. And that’s also what I want to do.”
Student-led fundraisers are Make-A-Wish Colorado’s highest revenue generators, according to Development Manager Sarah Grosh. According to Grosh, kids and schools across Colorado are responsible for bringing in more funds than any other program.
Nelson credited the success of this year’s Wish Week to members of the community getting involved, especially during a difficult year.
“I think it was just the community wanting to get involved,” said Nelson. “We haven’t been able to do any events through Ralston Valley since obviously last March, so not having a prom, not having a homecoming. We got the feeder schools involved too, so we had local elementary and middle schools involved. I think it was just something that brought the community together.”
There are currently 13 children in Arvada waiting for their wish to be fulfilled. Make-A-Wish Colorado will be hosting a statewide virtual Wish Week from April 12-16 hosted by the students who make up Make-A-Wish Colorado’s Youth Leadership Council.
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