— By SALLY SEXTON
Wesley Roach has always been a fan of Mack Brown and the University of Texas Longhorns. In fact, the 13-year-old Hall Middle School student has plans to go there after high school.
“I just think they have a better education group,” he said. “I like everything about them.”
About 10 months ago, Roach and his family received some dire news, when Roach was diagnosed with leukemia Jan. 9.
“We had no idea anything was wrong,” mom Leann Echols said. “He had started playing football and he’d keep coming home with really bad bruises. I bruise easy and I thought maybe that’s what it was.”
During Christmas break, Echols said Roach began showing signs of flu-like symptoms.
Two trips to the hospital and doctor’s office came up with negative testing results for leukemia. It wasn’t until a sample of Roach’s bone marrow was taken and tested that the disease was detected.
Roach is now on his second phase of chemotherapy treatment after going into remission within a month of starting treatment.
“He went into remission within 21 days of being diagnosed,” Echols said. “He’s responded really well to treatment.”
Roach does most of his chemotherapy at home in the form of pills, and goes to a hospital in Dallas once a month to get chemotherapy injected into his spine.
Thanks to the North Texas chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Roach recently had one of his biggest dreams come true.
Roach and his mother, with the help of wish granter and Make-A-Wish volunteer Tim Matheus, took a plane trip, Roach’s first ever, to Austin to meet Brown and the Longhorns.
“I’m very nervous. I’m not sure what I’m going to say when I get to meet [Brown], but I’ve got my Texas shirt already packed,” Roach said last week before the family left.
Roach and Echols spent their second day in Austin meeting the Longhorn players during practice. While there, Roach also got a chance to be on the Longhorn Network, UT’s regional sports network that focuses on sports-related programming for the college.
“One of the best parts was they presented me with the game ball,” Roach said following a Texas victory. “They’re going to mail that to me.”
The two also enjoyed the sites of Austin via a duck tour.
“This is something I’m going to remember for a long time,” Roach said. “If they ever asked me to go back, I’d say ‘Oh yeah!’”
The North Texas Make-A-Wish program, which was established in 1982, helps grant wishes for youth throughout the area suffering from life-threatening diseases. Wish children must be ages 2-1/2 through 18 to qualify, and can do so by being referred by themselves, through a medical professional or a guardian.
“Once that referral is made, we send a medical eligibility form to the doctor,” Lauren Grady, development officer for special events, said.
Last fiscal year, the program granted 530 wishes across North Texas.
Grady said that some of the wishes can get expensive, averaging about $7,500 each. The program raises money through donors, grants and events, and is always looking for donors and volunteers.
“Being a wish granter is probably our most popular way of getting involved,” Grady said. “The granter serves as the liaison between the foundation and the family, so they have that connection with the child and also get to see the impact by traveling with them.”
Anyone wishing to contribute to the North Texas chapter of Make-A-Wish can do so by calling 817-336-9474, or going to www.ntx.wish.org.