After spending more than half his young life in hospital, a week of playing in the waves in Cayman was a dream come true for five-year-old Henry Baker.
The youngster, who is finally cancer free after 40 months of chemotherapy, told the Make a Wish Foundation he wanted to go on a plane, on a boat and see lots of animals.
He got to do all that and more during a week in the Cayman Islands with his family, during which the island’s businesses came together to create Henry’s perfect vacation.
“My favorite thing was going on the Z99 radio show,” said Henry, who got to host the station’s morning show as part of his trip.
His mother, Jenna Baker, said Henry had developed a love for music during long days and nights at the hospital when he just wanted to sit in the dark and listen to his favorite songs.
For Mrs. Baker, her husband Brendan and their other children – Riley 13, Shea, 11 and Henry’s twin sister Mary – the trip has also been a wish fulfilled for them.
The chance to see Henry playing on the beach, swimming with dolphins or simply running around happily like a normal child is something they will never take for granted.
His immune system was so depleted during the years of treatment for leukemia that, until now, just going outside was a challenge.
The long months in the hospital paid off and Henry has now been given the all-clear. The visit to the Cayman Islands has become a celebration for the whole family of coming through some dark times.
“He has spent 40 months of his five years on this planet in chemotherapy,” said Mr. Baker. “There hasn’t been a day during that time where this hasn’t been hanging over us. For all of us, looking forward to this trip has been the light at the end of the tunnel.”
The trip has been more than they could have hoped for, says Mrs. Baker. The Cayman Islands is not officially part of the Make a Wish Foundation but a nurse at Henry’s hospital in Connecticut made contact with friends on the island, who enlisted former Cayman Islands Tourism Association marketing manager Karen Ebanks to help put together the trip schedule.
Snorkeling, wakeboarding, visiting the turtle farm, mini golf and a trip on a submarine where all part of the itinerary, as well as a room at the Ritz-Carlton, as businesses came together to make Henry’s trip a memorable one. The trip was capped off by a chance for him to host his own radio show.
“This isn’t just a vacation for us, it is really a wish, and everyone in the Cayman Islands has made it come true. It has exceeded all our expectations,” said Mrs. Baker.
The family asked to thank Hazel and Carl Brown, Irma Arch, and Karen Ebanks, of Generali Worldwide, for coordinating the trip.
Local organizations who sponsored the visit or made donations include the Cayman Islands Tourism Association and its members (Casanova, Wakeboard Cayman, Turtle Farm, Red Sails, Cimbo/ChickenChicken/Breezes, Atlantis Submarine, Ortanique, Deckers, Grand Old House, Dolphin Cove), Dart, Avis, the Department of Tourism, Fosters Food Fair, Cayman Airways, Ritz-Carlton and Z99.