“(Fishing is) like the one thing that he doesn’t struggle At. he gets in a boat and that’s his happy place.”– Mireille Chester, Anthony’s mom
Anthony Chester walked in to Prince Albert’s Rally Motorsports on Friday without knowing what was coming.
The 15-year-old held his dad’s hand as he made his way through the path a crowd of family and friends made for him.
At the end of the path was a large red fishing boat—something he’s always dreamt of.
Anthony is the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s newest recipient, which grants one wish to children with life-threatening medical conditions.
As Anthony’s dad, Kyle Chester, saw the smile on his son’s face, he couldn’t help but get emotional.
“I thought I was going to be able to control myself, but I just couldn’t do it,” he said. “Fishing is like his world…He can just sit there for nine, 10 hours and not even ask to go home once.”
The Prince Albert boy was born with epilepsy, autistic tendencies and cerebral palsy, leaving him slightly paralyzed on his left side.
Anthony responds with ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ but is mostly non-verbal. Although doctors said he may never be able to walk, “he runs around like crazy,” explained his mom Mireille Chester.
“(I’m) thankful, happy, excited. I was so nervous all day for this moment. I didn’t even know if he would come into the building because of how he is with crowds but it all went really well and he’s even still here, so that’s great,,” she said.
“It’s overwhelming. (I’m) so happy. So many people helped make this happen. (I’m) thankful. There are no words for it, really.”
After getting plenty of hugs and even some kisses on the cheek from his grandma, Anthony peered over the rim of the boat with a permanent smile on his face.
He reached in to find a tackle box filled with fishing hooks, looking at them like he was imagining all of the giant fish he could catch the next day. That’s when the boat got its first spin.
“It’s like the one thing that he doesn’t struggle at. He gets in a boat and that’s his happy place. It’s where he excels,” said Mireille.
It all started when she discovered a Facebook page for mothers with disabled children. Other members told her about the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
The family met the regional manager for Saskatchewan, Allyson Toye, in October of 2018.
“All Anthony said to me was ‘I want a red boat,’” said Toye. Red is his favourite colour, which was clear from the bright red bunny hug and hat he was wearing.
It took several months to build up enough money for the approximately $10,000 boat.
Granting each of the wishes is always a special moment, especially when she gets to be there for it, which she typically gets to do when the kids wish to have something.
“Having no children of my own, I always tell people I have 72 children across the province as my wish children, so I get to be part of their journey and follow them on Facebook or their parents, once I meet them, they almost bring me into their family and send me messages and updates on how these children are doing,” said Toye.
She said the wishes fall under four categories: a wish to have, a wish to go, a wish to be and a wish to meet. Seventy-six per cent of them are travel wishes.
Anthony’s wish was made possible with individual and corporate donations, community organizations like the Royal Purple Elks, who donated $500, and the help of Rally Motorsports.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation is currently working on eight more wishes in Prince Albert.