The pages of the BMX magazine 10-year-old Brian had bought were nearly unrecognizable. The year was 1985. Brian of Gillette, Wyoming was diagnosed two years earlier with a brain tumor and longed to have a BMX bike. For six months, he studied the magazine’s worn pages imagining how it might feel to call a bike like that his own.
The financial burden of Brian’s medical condition made the possibility of his single mother purchasing such a bike very unlikely. This reality never lessened Brian’s desire, and his want for a bike only grew stronger. Collecting scrap parts and used bike frames from those in the community, Brian’s many attempts to construct the bike fell short as his medical condition worsened.
Make-A-Wish Wyoming, which had received an official charter in September of 1985, had not yet granted a single wish when Brian’s story was shared with them by his older sister. With the support of local businesses and generous donors, the newly formed organization knew they could grant Brian’s wish. Equipped with a photo of Brian’s dream bike from the magazine, Wish Manager Judy Anderson began her search.
“Brian wanted a bicycle so that is what we gave him. We wanted to do what he wanted,” explained Make-A-Wish Wyoming President Jim Vemich to a Gillette newspaper in 1985. Once the bike was found, the time had come. Traveling to Gillette, Anderson and Vemich may have been prepared to grant Brian’s wish, but were unaware of how Brian would change the lives of so many after him.
Sprinting from his house with little regard for the brisk temperature accompanying a Wyoming morning in October, Brian’s vison became fixated on the bike sitting before him. Quickly buckling his new helmet beneath his smiling chin and securing each glove at the wrist, it was as if Brian had practiced for this exact moment dozens of times before, never believing it would come. Filling his lungs with crisp air, Brian found his balance placing one foot and then the other on the pedals. With the first complete turn of the bike’s wheel, Make-A-Wish Wyoming granted its first wish, setting in motion a tradition of serving children battling life-threatening conditions across the state for decades to come.
The feeling of hope Brian felt on that cold day in October is the same feeling more than 500 other children have since experienced because of a wish. Though it has been over 30 years since Brian’s wish was granted, the mission of Make-A-Wish Wyoming remains the same today; to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.