On his sixth birthday, Tris Sokolowski was diagnosed with stage 3B Hodgkin lymphoma.
The cancer had spread to his spleen, liver and entire lymphatic system. But his mother, Mary Ann Sokolowski, said the staff at The Children’s Hospital at TriStar Centennial in Nashville made him feel special that day by presenting him with a large sign, balloons and Legos. Within a week of his June birthday, Tris had surgery and began cancer treatment. He responded so well that by October of the same year, doctors declared him in remission.
When the Make-a-Wish Foundation offered to grant Tris a wish, he was asked where he might want to go. He initially said he’d like to go to his neighborhood pool, but he was encouraged to think bigger. He was reading a book about volcanoes, so he asked if he could see one. Last year, Tris, his twin sister Cora and their older brother James—along with their parents—visited Hawaii, where they saw volcanoes, attended a luau and rode in a submarine. After a year in which he had lost his hair and missed both kindergarten and his family’s big annual vacation, Tris was simply happy to be a normal kid again.
“He felt like the king of the world for a bit—having that to look forward to,” Mary Ann recalls.
Since 2004, HCA Healthcare has contributed more than $200,000 to Make-a-Wish Middle Tennessee. Last year, HCA Healthcare helped Make-a-Wish grant 95 wishes, including trips, shopping sprees and even pets. Their goal is to increase to 120 wishes this year. This year, HCA Healthcare’s Clinical Operations Group’s coordinated a fall fundraiser for the Middle Tennessee chapter of Make-a-Wish with the Caring for the Community and Employee Engagement committees. The Sokolowskis were present at the event where they shared their remarkable story and the indelible impact Make-a-Wish has had on their family. Tris and his family helped raise more than $27,000 – enough to fulfill the wishes of three more children who were critically ill.
Their story was so moving that Ken Grubbs, HCA Healthcare’s Vice President of Regulatory and Accreditation Services, found it difficult to follow their remarks. Grubbs, who is also a Middle Tennessee Make-a-Wish board member, says it’s difficult, even now, to maintain composure when speaking of Tris and his family.