Brayden Thompson poses with Kenny Kangaroo courtesy of Make-A-Wish, on June 30. (Courier Photo/J.L. Martello)


While illness can be tough on adults, it’s even tougher on children, but one local organization is working to make sure that children with life threatening illnesses get a chance to forget about their illness and have their wishes come true.

Brayden Thompson, 3, of Duquesne, was diagnosed with Retinoblastoma, a rare cancerous tumor of a part of the retina, in April 2012, after a nurse suggested to his mother that she get his eyes checked. Now, after a tumor and right eye removal, along with a slight round of chemo, Thompson is doing well and acts like a regular child.

On June 30, the Make-A-Wish of Greater Pennsylvania and Southern West Virginia organization, along with Kennywood Kangaroo, visited Thompson’s home and granted his wish to have season passes to Kennywood, Idlewild Park and Sandcastle.

“To watch a child’s most heartfelt wish come to life, like Brayden’s, is one of the most rewarding jobs one can have,” said Dana Antkowiak, a representative of Make-A-Wish. “We have always known anecdotally that a wish-come-true can be powerful medicine for our kids. For many children and their families, a wish is more than just a nice experience-it has a life-changing impact.”

Betty Thompson, Thompson’s mother, said she was thankful for the opportunity and said, “Brayden is my most energetic child. It (his condition) doesn’t slow him down.”

Betty Thompson said she noticed that something was wrong with Thompson’s eyes, but his doctor had never found anything wrong. One day when she was at Magee Women’s Hospital for a check-up with her other child, the nurse told her to take Thompson to the emergency room right away, so she did and after 30 minutes, the doctor diagnosed him. Since his diagnosis, Thompson has had a tumor removed, his right eye removed, chemotherapy and a prosthetic eye put in, that was later taken out because it did not heal right.

“Brayden hasn’t gone back for another prosthetic because I want to give him a break. They haven’t found any tumors and he gets MRIs regularly,” said Betty Thompson. “He is one of my main priorities. With his type of cancer, he is susceptible to develop another type of cancer, I am just hoping that no more tumors develop and if so, the removal is just as smooth as before.”

Thompson was selected after his mother referred him to the Make-A-Wish organization. The family said they chose a Kennywood passes, because a season pass would last longer than a trip to Disney World.

Make-A-Wish of Greater Pennsylvania and Southern West Virginia has granted more than 14,000 wishes. According to a study by Make-A-Wish America, “98 percent of wish parents felt the wish gave them an opportunity to be a ‘normal’ family again and 96 percent of parents said the wish experience strengthened their families.”

For more information on the organization, 1-800- 676-9474 or visit

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