CHEYENNE – Five-year-old Brooklynn Crane loves nothing more than being outside, camping with her grandma and grandpa, and roasting marshmallows around the fire. Her parents always had a hard time getting her back into the house, since she was too busy playing in the pool and the sandbox and jumping on the trampoline.
But when she was just 4 years old, Brooklynn began developing symptoms that kept her from playing catch and doing all the normal things a 4-year-old does. After seeing a number of doctors, searching for answers, Brooklynn received a cancer diagnosis in July of last year.
Living in Casper, the Cranes began making adjustments for Brooklynn’s treatment in Denver, trying to find glimmers of hope in the help of others. The family found support in a number of agencies that helped with housing near Denver and medical bills, according to her dad, Dustin.
And on the second Saturday in October, Brooklynn got the surprise of a lifetime, thanks to the help of Cheyenne-based Adventure RV and Make-A-Wish Wyoming. Outside their Casper home, Brooklynn was surprised with a brand new camper, complete with the bunk beds she’s been dreaming about, all provided by Adventure RV.
“For us, it’s just an amazing feeling because it’s hard enough going through something as serious as this with your child. To have people like Jason’s Friends and Brent’s Place and Make-A-Wish and Adventure RV, it just really makes it a lot easier to stay positive and a lot easier to keep moving forward,” Dustin said.
When considering the options for her wish, Brooklynn’s heart was immediately set on a camper. Dustin said they asked if she wanted a puppy or to go see Mickey and Minnie at Disney, but little Brooklynn was steadfast.
She didn’t know the surprise was coming, and Dustin said it lifted her spirits immensely to see the camper out front after returning home from her treatment in Denver. Whenever their family was struggling, he said nonprofits and businesses willing to lend a hand came through at just the right times.
“Just when we were getting down, it just was like they knew. It just seemed like they always came at the right time to lift our spirits,” Dustin said.
But the wish wasn’t easy to pull off, since the demand for RVs jumped during the COVID-19 pandemic, as more and more people wanted to escape to the great outdoors. When Make-A-Wish got in contact with John Reynolds, the general manager at Adventure RV, he contacted their supplier and secured a camper for Brooklynn, as well as two more campers for other Make-A-Wish kids in Wyoming.
Without his assistance, the Make-A-Wish team said Brooklynn’s wish would’ve taken even longer to be granted.
“It brings that warm and fuzzy feeling to everybody that was involved in this, but it also was the right thing to do,” Reynolds said. “If we can afford and have the ability to help somebody out and help them accomplish even the smallest dream of just going camping, then we’re going to do it.”
With the help of community partners like Adventure RV, Make-A-Wish has been in the business of making kids’ dreams come true in Wyoming since 1985. This year, they’re celebrating their 35th year in the Cowboy State, where they’ve granted more than 600 wishes.
While some travel-related wishes had to be put on hold due to COVID-19, Make-A-Wish was still able to make 14 wishes come true, including Brooklynn’s, providing everything from obstacle courses to online shopping sprees.
According to Make-A-Wish Wyoming CEO Morgan Poloncic, providing hope to kids with critical illnesses is essential, especially during this difficult time.
“For a lot of our wish kids, the moment they are diagnosed, their whole world is turned upside down. A lot of our wish kids spend more time in the hospital than on the playground. There is so much that is out of their control, and a wish can be the one positive thing for them to look forward to,” Poloncic said.
That much was true for Brooklynn and her family, who went from taking family camping trips to taking trips to Denver for treatment. Dustin said it was both frustrating and disheartening to see that his daughter “couldn’t walk, couldn’t play, couldn’t be a child.”
Those feelings are what Make-A-Wish hope to combat by granting wishes.
Poloncic said, “In many ways, an illness can steal a childhood. Our hope is that a wish can give a piece of it back.”
Margaret Austin is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s local government reporter. She can be reached at [email protected] or 307-633-3152. Follow her on Twitter at @MargaretMAustin.