Ryan was healthy one day and the next day he was not. In the summer of 2013, just a few days before a planned family trip to Ryan’s favorite place, the Oregon coast, he was sent to the emergency room and soon diagnosed a life-threatening bone marrow failure. After months of failed treatment and over 50 blood product transfusions, we were told that Ryan’s condition was “not compatible with life.” He needed a bone marrow transplant to survive.
Ryan received that lifesaving transplant from an anonymous donor this past May. As he recovers, he is dreaming about his wish … to go to the beach in Hawaii.
Recently, Subaru learned of Ryan’s wish and invited him to be in a beach scene for their 7th annual “Share the Love” event commercial which they planned to film near us.
When I first asked Ryan if he wanted to be in a commercial, he was a little hesitant about being on camera. He was still mostly bald from the pre-transplant chemotherapy and was puffy from being on high-dose steroids. For those reasons, I think he felt shy about being filmed. I told him it was completely his decision and that if he decided to do it, it would bring awareness to Make-A-Wish and help grant the wishes of a lot of other kids. Without further hesitation he said, “Then I’ll do it!”
The day before the commercial shoot, our family arrived at the hotel where the production crew and representatives from Subaru met us. Ryan was treated like a celebrity from the start; from wardrobe fittings, to catered snacks and a backpack full of gifts from Subaru, to even a hotel room with a view of the Seattle skyline that we were able to enjoy for our brief stay in the city.
The next day, we watched the filming of a holiday scene for the commercial. We had the opportunity to mingle with the cast and crew while learning about all of the intricate details that go into a commercial production – right down to fully decorating a city building with evergreen wreaths, garland and red holiday bows in the middle of summer!
From there, we headed to a beach location for Ryan’s scene. He was excited to be able to play in the sand, an activity that has otherwise been forbidden due to his illness and recovering immune system. We made this one closely monitored exception and he was thrilled.
Subaru and the production crew were very accommodating regarding Ryan’s health. The celebrity treatment continued with Ryan being followed around the beach by a man holding a large umbrella to ensure that Ryan was never exposed to the sun for too long. Sun exposure can trigger graft-versus-host disease, a common side effect in transplant patients.
Another special aspect of the experience was that Ryan’s sister, Alicia, was invited to participate in the commercial, as well. Siblings of children with serious illnesses often feel left out with so much focus on the child with the illness. The commercial shoot provided her with a little time in the spotlight as well.
We are excited for others to see Ryan in the finished commercial. We hope that Ryan’s scene will inspire families purchasing a Subaru to select Make-A-Wish as their charity of choice.
Through Jan. 2, 2015, during the “Share the Love” event, Subaru will donate $250 for every new Subaru purchased or leased, up to $15 million, to the purchaser’s choice of participating charities, including Make-A-Wish. During last year’s event, Subaru donated over $2 million to Make-A-Wish to help make the wishes of eligible children come true.