Many wish kids wish for something that impacts their journey in one way or another. For Steph of Rapid City, looking back 14 years, having her wish granted has resulted in her having a desire to give back.
Steph’s mother noticed swelling on the left side of her neck when she was 16. A quick trip to see an on-call doctor lead to an appointment with a surgeon. A biopsy confirmed Steph had Hodgkin lymphoma.
Steph remembers the day the Make-A-Wish® South Dakota volunteers came to her house, she said there was such a positive energy flowing throughout the room. They asked her “if you go anywhere, meet anyone, have or be anything you could possibly think of, what would it be?”
After convincing her little sister she did not want to meet the Backstreet Boys, she wished to go on a family trip to Hawaii once her treatments were complete. It gave Steph something to look forward to and gave her strength when she wanted to stop treatments and give up.
Steph chose to go to Hawaii because she wanted to do something for the whole family. After such a terrible year, she knew her family needed positive time together. “Cancer is not a one-person disease, it’s a family disease” Steph said. She continues to have this selfless mindset today.
“Our trip to Hawaii was extraordinary,” Steph said. “We travelled in a limo, stayed in a 5-star hotel near the beach, and did every activity we could think of: surfing lessons, luau, hiked a volcano, helicopter ride, pineapple plantation tour, day cruise, we even watched a movie on the beach. My favorite part was shopping at the market with my sister. It was good bonding. “
Since Steph’s wish trip to Hawaii in June 2002, she spent several years volunteering for the American Cancer Society while she lived in Ohio and today she best utilizes her couponing skills to donate items to her community. She also serves on her church board.
Recently, Steph began volunteering for Make-A-Wish South Dakota. She volunteered at the 4th Annual Black Hills Walk for Wishes in May. Steph is looking forward to continuing to help Make-A-Wish and support families that are going through a hard time. “Wish kids and their parents are encouraged when they meet adults who are former wish kids. I wear that badge proudly,” Steph said.
Since Steph’s last day of chemo on her 17th birthday, she has shown light on what it looks like to overcome the struggles she faced with Hodgkin lymphoma.
In 2006, Steph earned a bachelor’s degree in English with a writing specialization from Northern State University in Aberdeen. Following graduation, she spent a year in South Korea studying at Yonesi University. Today, Steph lives in Rapid City with her beautiful five-year old, Zoe. She is the regional recruiter for Aflac in Western South Dakota.