Make A Wish -- Siemers

The Make A Wish Foundation helped make a trip to Ireland come true for Eddie Siemer after he was diagnosed with leukemia. Pictured is the Siemer family at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. From left to right are Marty, Joey, Eddie, Lauren, Gus and Lisa. Eddie will be one of the “wish” kids honored at the Buckin’ For Wishes Rodeo on June 2.

By Angela Hayes

For The News Report

CBAR Rodeo Company is heading back to the Effingham County Fairgrounds in Altamont for the 2nd annual Buckin’ For Wishes Rodeo.

Don’t miss the live action fun, scheduled for Saturday, June 2.

The gates will open at 4:30 p.m. and the rodeo starts at 7 p.m. This year’s event will be jammed packed with death-defying bull riding, heart-pounding barrel racing and the spectacular Dixie Stampede’s Dusti Crain-Dickerson.

Call-ins for bull riders and barrel riders will be 5-10 p.m. Monday, May 28. They can contact CBAR at 618-349-8336.

There will even be plenty of fun there for the little buck-a-roos. Kids power wheels bumper cars, games and face painting will be held behind the grandstands from 5-6:30 p.m.

No need to worry about food and drinks. Vendors will be available from 5-9:30 p.m.

The Chicago Make-A-Wish Foundation has chosen this event for a special reunion for “wish” families. There will be an opening ceremony at 6:45 that will honor “wish” kids.

“The impact of a wish can really be a game changer for a child undergoing treatments,” said Beth Funneman, wish grantor and host of Buckin’ For Wishes.

Wish families are invited to attend free of admission. There will be a supper provided for the families as well. If you are a wish family and have not received your invitation and would like to attend, please contact Funneman at 217-663-7935.

Make-A-Wish has been responsible for granting wishes to children who have been diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses between the ages of 18 months and 18 years old. Eddie Siemer and Kinley Walker are two of the courageous individuals who have had wishes granted.

When Eddie was15 years old, he passed out at home over a weekend. His family thought it was due to a flu. By the end of that same week, Eddie grew progressively weaker and passed out during track practice. His track coach suggested that could have been caused by dehydration and his family took him to the hospital.

After taking samples of Eddie’s blood to have it diagnosed, they sent the family immediately to St. Louis. Later that night, the Siemer’s family would never be the same.

Eddie was diagnosed with Leukemia.

Eddie and his family were still in a tail spin when Make-A-Wish contacted them within the first two weeks and asked, “If you could choose any wish in the world, what would it be?”

While still trying to wrap his head around the diagnosis, Eddie had something else to put his mind on.

Something besides the disease.

Driven by his love of soccer and being on the Teutopolis High School soccer team, Eddie chose to go to the World Cup in Brazil for his wish.

This wish helped Eddie pull through long, hard days and the volatile effects chemotherapy had on him. It proved to be a positive goal he and his family could work towards and focus on.

In May, Eddie graduated from high school, and two days later, he came down with a fever due to complications from his treatments. His wish was only one week away and his doctors told him he would not be able to make the trip to Brazil to see the Word Cup.

Eddie was devastated.

The wish granter called Eddie immediately and told him he would get another wish and to think about where he would like to go. After some thought, Eddie decided he wanted to go to Ireland.

The following summer, Eddie, along with his father Marty, mother Lisa, sister Lauren, and his two brothers, Joey and Gus, all went to Ireland for 10 days. It gave the family time to reconnect and have a bit of normalcy in an otherwise chaotic time.

They traveled to Dublin and visited the Guinness Storehouse. Eddie can now pour the perfect pint; a privilege few teens can lay claim to. Their travels also included a private tour to the Blarney Castle and Gardens, where they were able to kiss the infamous Blarney Stone.

“People all say, I can’t imagine how you could ever have gotten through that situation. How do you deal with your kid having cancer? And honestly, you deal with it just like you do every day; you just get through today,” said Lisa.

And it seems to be working.

Eddie is now in remission and doing well. He just graduated from SIU-Edwardsville with his undergraduate degree and is going on to St. Louis University to study law. He still has some difficulty with mobility from his treatment, but Eddie is proving how strong he is every day.

Make-A-Wish also granted a wish to a little princess named Kinley Walker. When Kinley was just two months old, she was diagnosed with Biliary Atresia, a rare liver disease that causes bile flow to be blocked from the liver to the gallbladder.

And what would a princess ask to do if she could wish for anything? To twirl with other princesses, of course.

Make-A-Wish flew Kinley, her parents Troy and Hannah, and her two sisters, Reagan and Morgan, to Florida. They toured Disney, Universal and Sea world.

Their first day was spent in Disney where she was surrounded by princesses. Her favorite ride was actually a roller coaster — the Cinderella roller coaster.

At Sea World, Kinley had front row seats to see Shamu, the gigantic orca whale. They were so close to the action, they all had to wear ponchos to keep from getting soaked when Shamu crashed down, sending a tidal wave of water into the crowd. She even got to feed the sea lions fish.

But it was a squirrel eating a piece pf bread out of a baby stroller that really left a lasting impression on Kinley.

On April 6, Kinley had a liver transplant and she is getting stronger and stronger every day. Going through what she has been through at such a young age is a true testament to her tenacious and courageous spirit.

Her mom asks her about the large V-shaped scar on her stomach from her transplant.

“What are you going to tell everyone when they ask you what happened.”

“It’s a shark bite!” Kinley said with a big smile.