Nathan Westbrook, 12, and his family stand by the door inside their Denton home on Aug. 19, waiting to step into their backyard to unveil their new porch. Guests gather around the porch screen with cameras on hand to capture the family’s reactions.
Nathan has Down syndrome and nonverbal autism. At 6 months old, he was diagnosed with infantile spasms that led to regular seizures until he was 2. When he was 6, Nathan was diagnosed with leukemia.
Stepping out into their new porch, the Westbrook family looked around in awe. The porch is tailor made for their son Nathan with sensory toys and features brought to them by nonprofit A Wish With Wings.
Through regular hospital visits and treatments at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, the Westbrook family was connected with the Wings organization.
A Wish With Wings is a nonprofit that grants wishes throughout the state of Texas for children with life threatening medical conditions. The nonprofit was founded in 1982 in Arlington but moved its headquarters to Fort Worth 10 years ago.
Criteria to receive a wish through A Wish With Wings:
- Child must live or receive treatment in the state of Texas
- The child must be between 3-19. Wishes for children below the age of 3 have to be approved by the organization’s board of directors
- Have a life threatening medical condition
- Have not previously received a wish from any wish granting organization
Westbrook met the criteria to receive a gift from the nonprofit. His family asked for an enclosed porch. Westbrook loves being outside, his mother said, but the outdoors puts his compromised immune system at risk of infection.
What is immunocompromised?
When an individual’s immune system fails and doesn’t have the ability to fight off diseases and infections.
“They started talking to my wife about what Nathan likes, and for him, a big trip or meeting a celebrity wasn’t going to resonate with him,” Max Westbrook said. “We told them what would really change his life is if he could be outside, but still be protected from any kind of outside dangers.”
Westbrook’s love for music and lights were also a key element of the family’s application.
The nonprofit accepted the family’s request and started work on the porch in 2019. The process to make Westbrook’s wish come true wasn’t all smooth sailing. The COVID-19 pandemic halted the project in March 2020.
“Everything kind of shut down and so did wish granting, in a sense, but we had to just kind of wait it out,” Clarissa Patiño, program director with A Wish With Wings, said. “Once things got a little bit better with COVID, we still had to wait a little bit longer, because we noticed the cost of materials was through the roof.”
The construction team resumed work on the porch in February of this year and concluded on Aug. 19.
“To be able to take your professional knowledge and professional relationships and turn that into something besides the pursuit of the almighty dollar, it’s just a fun thing to do,” John Hoover, a construction worker on the porch, said.
Westbrook’s porch cost about $20,000. Wishes granted by the nonprofit normally average out to $7,500, Patiño said.
“Thankfully, we had quite a few sponsors that were really invested in helping us get this wish granted for Nathan and that helped us tremendously,” Patiño said.
A Wish with Wings secured donations for materials and labor through Christman Facility Solutions, Christman Milwork, Guroo Contracting, Armstrong Douglas, KNK Concrete Express, Parmer Roofing, Faber Trade and Carruthers Landscaping.
“This has been above and beyond what we imagined it was going to be,” Max Westbrook said. “When they first told us that they were going to do it, you’re just so overwhelmed by the generosity of that. We’re gonna have so many hours of dancing around out here. It’s gonna be awesome.”
David Moreno is a multimedia fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.