Eleven years ago, seventeen year old Ty from Lake Preston picked a wish trip that allowed his family to spend time together and get their minds off of cancer and doctor’s appointments. Ty wished to go to the most magical place on earth, Walt Disney World.
After two and a half years of cancer treatments, the family of six took flight to sunny Orlando, FL, for a week full of wonders. Ty said that he was blown away by the entire trip. His family was immediately welcomed to Give Kids the World Village
, a fairy tale resort specifically designed for children facing life-threatening medical conditions. One of his sweetest memories from the resort, like many other wish kids, was that he could have his favorite ice-cream at all-hours of the day – even for breakfast!
Ty went on to share his Disney memories, “I can still vividly remember the excitement me and my brothers had as we were brought to the front of the fast pass line and there were a couple of times when we got to ride the roller coaster numerous times before exiting the ride!” Ty enjoyed the top-notch treatment, “everywhere we went someone would greet us and make sure we knew where we were going,” and he said that it might be hard for him to go back to Disney World because of the perks of his wish trip. Ty’s family enjoyed each other’s company for a week without having to focus on Ty’s illness, “my mom will tell you, she didn’t even know how needed it was until we were there. We all hit the reset button for that week!”
Prior to Ty’s diagnosis, he was an active freshman in high school and competed in football, basketball and track. “I didn’t have any of the classic symptoms, I ran my best quarter mile time two weeks before I was diagnosed,” said Ty. But he often found himself tired and his family kept finding him taking naps in tractors and other odd places. After running a blood test, his doctor noticed a lump on his neck. A biopsy was done on the lump and the doctors confirmed it was cancerous. Chemotherapy was started immediately and Ty said the next two and a half years were a blur. “Life goes on but you are so tired and are always at the hospital. I was losing pounds, and constantly having surgeries.”
Ty’s experience gave him strength that will last a lifetime. “After going through everything I did, I know I wasn’t the same person I was before it all. It was a total mindset change for me. It really shows you what you’re capable of.” Due to hospital visits and treatments, Ty missed 36% of school and at one point, he was advised to repeat a year of high school. He didn’t take the advice and did double the work when he was feeling up to it. Ty graduated Valedictorian of his high school graduating class. He went on to study business and entrepreneurship at South Dakota State University, where he was a Stephen F. Briggs Scholar. “You have no idea what your mind and body are capable of until you don’t have a choice. Your mindset completely changes - you go from why, to why not - now you know you can do it,” Ty said.
Today Ty works for Rembrandt Foods out of Brookings, SD. Ty’s wish trip and cancer experience also left him with a desire to give back to childhood cancer survivors. He sits on Avera’s Cancer Care Advisory Board and he has his own foundation where he gives scholarships to youth cancer survivors across the state. Ty is a volunteer at Make-A-Wish®
South Dakota, where he helps grant wishes like the one he had granted eleven years earlier.