Up until April of this year, Chris and Ashley Humpal’s life seemed pretty normal. They ran errands, ate dinner, helped their son with homework, and enjoyed their time together as most families do. Chris is in the Coast Guard, and they moved to Astoria some time ago from Massachusetts to fulfill his duty as a Coastie. Originally from Alabama, they’ve enjoyed life on the coast and raising their son Jackson in the charming town of Astoria.
Everything drastically changed for them one day in April. Jackson had a weird rash for a few days, which they were watching closely. Then, he got a bad nose bleed that wouldn’t stop. Feeling alarmed, they drove him to the ER at Columbia Memorial Hospital. Jackson’s nose wouldn’t stop bleeding, and he was growing weaker by the minute. The doctor made the vital decision to have Jackson life-lighted to OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, where after many tests, they received the tragic news; Jackson has Leukemia.
Since then, their daily life has been a struggle, full of doctor visits, medical treatments, and hospital bills. Watching your child suffer is heartbreaking, but through it all, little seven-year-old Jackson has been a trooper. Ashley says he’s a happy kid and seems to always be in good spirits, even during his recent struggles. His attitude is contagious and reminds everyone that we can be happy in any circumstance.
The family has been blessed with a lot of help from the Coast Guard and the Ronald McDonald House (they provided accommodations during their month in Portland). In addition, they were surprised to recently receive a packet in the mail from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, who heard about Jackson’s struggles and offered to grant him a wish. According to the Foundation’s website, “Make-A-Wish serves a unique, and vital, role in helping strengthen and empower children battling critical illnesses.” A child doesn’t have to be terminally ill to be granted a wish. They must be battling with a life-threatening illness, though, just like Jackson.
I know firsthand what a difference the Make-A-Wish Foundation makes in the lives of the families devastated by life-threatening illnesses. Both my nephews were granted wishes by Make-A-Wish foundation in the 1990s. My nephews were both able to enjoy a trip to Disneyland before passing away from a rare genetic disease. My family has never forgotten their kindness and generosity or the beautiful memories created during that trip.
Fortunately, the prognoses for Jackson looks much brighter. After finishing another six days straight of cranial radiation, doctors think he could make a full recovery by the end of the year. Ashley and Chris believe in miracles. Hope is what pulls them through the roughest times. That, and the support of the community, family, and friends.
You’re probably wondering about Jackson’s wish. After all, Make-A-Wish has granted just about every kind of wish that you could imagine, from a child meeting their favorite pop star to trips to the Super Bowl. Jackson’s wish is for a service beagle, one he can take with him everywhere. He also wants to share his dog with other kids dealing with cancer. Amid his suffering, he wants to make other kids smile. That’s just the kind of thing that makes Jackson so remarkable.
Jackson attends Astor Elementary School, and together with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, they planned a surprise party for Jackson. Kids, teachers, parents, and community revealed to Jackson with much celebration that he is indeed going to get his service beagle. His face lit up like a Christmas tree when they handed him a stuffed toy as a symbol of his granted wish until Jackson can choose from one of three beagles. He already knows what he wants to name his dog, Boomer. Boomer, the beagle, will undoubtedly have a great life with the Humpal’s and make lots of kids extremely happy.
The road back to recovery won’t be easy. There will be more medical treatments and far more challenges, but certainly, a beloved service dog will help keep Jackson calm, even during the most challenging times.
If you would like to help with Jackson’s medical expenses, you can donate through PayPal using this link. The Humpal’s are incredibly grateful to the community, the Ronald McDonald House, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation for all the help during this tough time. Prayers, assistance, and donations continue to make a significant impact. We all wish Jackson a speedy recovery and many fun-filled days with Boomer the beagle.