Wishes do come true

Kenan-Flagler Business School students bring 6-year-old Scott’s wish for a special trip to fruition through unique class assignment.

Wishes do come true click to enlarge The Lenfestey family enjoyed Universal Studios and several other parks on Scott's Make-A-Wish trip.
Wishes do come true click to enlarge Nancy and Scott describe their trip to Professor Jim Kitchen’s Intro to Entrepreneurship class.

The first sign of real trouble in the Lenfestey family was son, Nick, telling his younger brother, Scott, “You can’t eat that plastic fruit, silly! It’s not real— just like those plastic grapes you ate in the playroom.”

The banter between the brothers drew Nancy and Rob Lenfestey’s immediate attention. The parents, who had noted Scott seemed pale on a car ride earlier that day, pressed Nick for details, and he confirmed that 3-year-old Scott had indeed ingested some fake grapes.

Worried about potential lead poisoning, the boys’ pediatrician ordered blood tests. Later that night, the family received a call that changed everything: Scott’s bloodwork had come back abnormal. But it wasn’t a result of lead or another toxin. The pediatrician suspected Scott had leukemia.

“Prior to being diagnosed, Scott was a typical healthy toddler,” recalls Nancy. “He never had an ear infection or even a sick visit to the pediatrician. Given that his only symptoms at the time were fatigue and pallor, we were completely shocked.”

The family soon met with Stuart Gold, MD, UNC Children’s chief of pediatric hematology-oncology, who confirmed that Scott had acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The very next day Scott had a port surgically inserted into a large vein next to his heart, which would facilitate chemotherapy treatment and blood draws for an anticipated three years.

“We didn’t know what to expect,” says Nancy of the experience. “Would he be hospitalized frequently? How would our family establish a ‘new normal’ with one child and a parent in the hospital and two other young kids needing routine in their lives? It was a scary and sad time.”

The Lenfesteys quickly developed close relationships with Dr. Gold and many others on Scott’s care team, including nurse practitioner Diana Gordon. It was Diana who first suggested a family trip might help them cope with Scott’s illness, and she encouraged them to apply to Make-A-Wish.

“We had heard from several other patient families that ‘No one does Orlando like Make-A-Wish!’ but we were hesitant at first,” remembers Nancy. “Scott was only 3 at the time, and we also did not like to be more than two hours travel time from UNC.”

Years passed, and Scott moved into the maintenance phase of his treatment. Now 6 years old, Scott began talking about a trip to Disney World.

“I asked Diana about going, and she said that everyone in our family would benefit, since everyone in a family misses out on some aspect of life when a loved one goes through treatment,” says Nancy. “So Diana applied for us, and two months later, we were notified our trip had been approved!”

In a twist of fate, Nancy, an alumna of UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, learned that Professor Jim Kitchen’s Intro to Entrepreneurship class at the school would fund the family’s Make-A-Wish trip through an innovative class project.

Students were divided into teams and given $50 in seed money and four days to sell a product or service with the goal of making as much profit as possible. One team leveraged social media and a UNC football game to sell silicon bracelets branded #BeatCancer and #ScottsDream. Another team took and delivered milkshake orders on campus. Through their efforts, the students raised more than $15,000, enough to fund Scott’s trip and another child’s wish.

“It was a huge surprise to discover that Kenan-Flagler was the benefactor of Scott’s wish,” says Nancy. “We were even invited to address the class after our return. Scott remarked: ‘Wow, they want to hear from us? We must be special people!’”

See video of Scott's classroom visit with the students who funded his dream come true >>

Jedi Scott battles Darth Vader during his Make-A-Wish trip.
The trip turned out to be a wonderful affair, the family enjoying a six-night stay in Give Kids the World, a non-profit resort that houses families with children who have life-threatening illness. The Lenfesteys made the most of each day, visiting Disney World, Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, LEGOLAND, SeaWorld, and Aquatica during the trip.

Back home, Scott is doing well and approaching the last few months of treatment. He still sees Dr. Gold regularly.

“He is compassionate and approachable—qualities that parents treasure,” says Nancy of Dr. Gold. “I have emailed him countless times over the last three years, and he is up checking email at 4:30 a.m. He provides guidance, reassurance, and honesty that are invaluable when there are so many questions and so much uncertainty. We are so blessed to have him in our lives.”

Beyond his medical treatments, Scott's life very much mirrors that of a typical 6 year old. He enjoys school—he is homeschooled to avoid exposure to illness—and takes a self-defense class, and he will soon begin drawing classes.

“He loves life every day and is excited about the holidays,” says Nancy. “We are looking forward to warmer months when he can resume bike riding, soccer, and trips to the beach.”

 

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