XENIA — Bo got his wish.
But before his wish was granted, it all started with his first family trip to the beach.
“I have the greatest picture of him,” Katey Porter, mother of 12-year-old Bo Porter, of Xenia, said, smiling. “His uncle, Rob’s brother, hooked up a kite to a fishing pole. Bo’s standing there. He’s got a sun hat on, he’s holding a fishing pole, and the kite is flying above him, over the beach.”
Bo loves the water. Body surfing. Golf carting. All things sun and sand.
And thanks to Make-A-Wish, Bo got to go to the beach again — this time in Hawaii.
His mom, dad, and sisters Willa Kate and Anna tagged along, too, for a 5 a.m. limo ride to the airport, a flight to the island, and a week full of adventures — a submarine ride, a helicopter trip, a luau — all in the kind of world Bo loves most.
Bo’s wish was revealed Dec. 9, a Sunday morning during kids’ church at Life House Church in Beavercreek. Surrounded by his friends, the sixth grader smiled — big — when two Make-A-Wish volunteers walked in with a “Bo is going to Hawaii” sign, balloons and donuts and leis, his parents, sisters and Florida grandparents trailing behind.
Bo hung leis around his friends’ necks, played ball, and took silly photos with his family and party guests.
Among the guests was Bo’s sign language interpreter, signing the surprise for him in a room too loud for his matching cochlear implants. Bo already knew he was going to an island — because “island” is a lot easier to sign than “Hawaii,” his sister Anna Porter explained.
Bo was on the wish list for a while. His dad, Rob Porter, said the long process starts with a referral to the organization from the child’s doctor.
“They really try to find a great match based on what interests the kids have, and what would also serve the needs of the family,” he said. “Our support team was so gracious and kind.”
But it wasn’t so simple. The most popular wish is a trip to Walt Disney World. Other children meet professional sports players or celebrities.
“Bo doesn’t really watch TV. So, Disney isn’t something that’s exciting,” Rob Porter said. “So Make-A-Wish came up with destination-adventure type trips.”
Soon, it clicked.
“He couldn’t really tell us for a long time what was important to him,” Katey Porter said. “(Make-A-Wish volunteer) Madeleine (Devitt) brought an iPad. She started to show Bo some pictures. He saw the ocean … When they came and discovered it, it was just joy.”
“He lit up,” Devitt added.
“We were so relieved. Bo was able to tell us something that he enjoyed, something that he remembered, something that meant something to him, something he could do again in a different place,” Katey Porter said.
Hawaii happens to be the second most popular wish.
“It’s all sensory. It’s what makes his body feel good and happy. It’s all this movement and travel and riding,” Katey Porter said.
But before the wish, and before the first beach trip, it really all started when Bo was born.
Bo was born with an omphalocele, which means his abdomen was open and his organs were outside his body. Critically ill, baby Bo stayed in the hospital for 9 months, losing his hearing at 6 months old.
“When he was four, we decided to do a cochlear implant. And when you do a cochlear implant, that’s permanent. It goes into the cochlea — that’s what you need to hear. Any hearing that you had would be gone from the surgical opening,” his mother said. “When he was five, he got the other ear done.”
Bo also had a trach taken out several years ago. And digestive issues remain, but he keeps up his strength by drinking Ensure. His body can’t handle anything else.
But as the reveal party winded down, Bo looked just like any other kid there. Otherwise fairly quiet, Bo launched a ball across the room in the middle of a several-person ball game. And when necessary, the 12-year-old politely urged his dad — standing within range of fire — to move out of the way.
Bo in Hawaii probably looked like some version of that original photo: Sun hat on. Fishing pole in hand. Kite above his head, flying in the wind.