Not all family gatherings are created equal.
Wednesday night was celebratory as the family and friends of Clay Misar gathered for a Make-A-Wish reveal party. The Oldham teen was getting the observatory of his dreams.
“When kids are given a wish, we encourage them to think big. We want them to tap into their creativity and the things they enjoy doing,” said Joe Evenson, senior director of program services with the regional Make-A-Wish chapter.
When given that opportunity, Clay reached for the stars. He doesn’t remember when he first became interested in the heavens, but he does recall what inspired him – a magazine in which he saw pictures taken from the Hubble Space Telescope.
His parents bought him his first telescope about three years ago, a small one which he has used to view the moon.
“With this one,” he said of the telescope he received through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, “I will be able to see Jupiter.”
Recovered from harrowing battle
Clay’s mother Annitta reports he is in remission and doing well these days.
“He has no ports, no feeding tube and takes absolutely no medication. The only thing that we’re working with right now is his iron is too high from all of his blood transfusions, so he has a phlebotomy once a month,” she said.
With the therapeutic phlebotomy, blood is removed and replaced with a saline solution, Annitta explained. After missing his eighth-grade year of school due to his battle with cancer, Clay was able to attend classes again last year.
Two years ago, Clay was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia – acute myelocytic leukemia (AML) complicated with the FLT-3 mutation. The first year was difficult – as Clay’s CaringBridge journal indicates – and the family was called to gather on more than one occasion because the prognosis was not good.
“We went up to see him in Minneapolis,” his grandmother, Sylvia Misar, recalled. “He was laying there and struggling for every breath. The kids had to go in and tell him goodbye.”
Clay has three siblings – Clint, who is now studying at Lake Area Technical College; Kylee, who is entering her senior year at Oldham-Ramona this year; and seven-year-old Cody, who was the donor for the bone marrow transplant. Annitta said he handled the procedure well.
“It was a quick turnaround,” she said. “The next day he was up running around.”
Mike’s eyes still fill with tears when he recalls how bad it got at times.
“Watching him go through what he went through – we had doctors tell us, ‘Have you considered end of life scenarios’?” Clay’s dad recounted and paused for a deep breath. “He came back from it.”
Mike said his faith has been strengthened as a result of seeing his son’s recovery, but he also thinks Clay’s indomitable spirit was a factor.
“He would always argue about everything. That’s what got him through it,” Mike said.
Picking up rhythms of life
Clay was out riding a four-wheeler with a friend while the conservatory was installed on Wednesday. He was excited to arrive home and see it, having waited nearly a year and a half.
However, he was also excited because he will be playing football this fall. The recovery has been challenging for him.
“It’s been slow, really slow. It takes a long time,” he said.
Picking up the normal rhythms of life was hard, even getting back into school although he enjoyed being with friends again. This year, he plans to try a little harder in his classes.
Annitta admitted Clay’s recovery has been a little challenging for her, too, but for a different reason.
“Every time he gets a fever or gets sick, I wonder if it’s back,” she said.
Celebrating dream come true
On Wednesday night, though, that shadow of fear was set aside and replaced with joy at the Make-A-Wish reveal party. Evenson told those in attendance the conservatory began with a sketch that Clay made and is the only one of its kind.
“We got the dome from somewhere in Canada,” Evenson said.
The company had not done anything residential before, but was able to construct one to meet Clay’s needs.
The structure was built by Builder’s First Source in Brookings. Todd Magstadt coordinated the project, which incorporated the dome into a 10x10 structure with eight-foot sidewalls.
“Actually, it was a lot of trial and error,” he admitted. “We wanted a clubhouse below and then we needed to figure out how to put the deck in it.”
The roof proved to be the greatest challenge because he and his colleagues, who helped to brainstorm solutions, realized when they saw the dome they couldn’t use the slanted roof planned. They turned to Metal Sales Manufacturing in Sioux Falls for their solution.
Before the project is completed, it will be wired for electricity and Sioux Valley Energy will install an electrical line for the conservatory. In addition, Clay received a $1,000 gift certificate from Walmart to furnish it.
In making the official announcement at the reveal party, where pizza was served, Evenson placed an emphasis on community partners like Builder’s First Source which helped to fulfill Clay’s wish.
“Wishes don’t happen without good local support,” he said.
Following the presentation, Mike noted the local community – Oldham, Ramona, Sinai, Madison and Brookings – has supported the family from the beginning, both financially and emotionally.
“When the chips are down, small communities come together,” he said.