OSWEGO, NY – He slid into the driver’s seat comfortably and grabbed the steering wheel with both hands. His younger brother piled into the passenger’s seat.
It was Julian Ross’ first new car. However, the seven-year-old will have to leave the driving up to mom or dad, at least for now.
“We’re helping the Ross’ take an item off the ‘Bucket List’ for their son, Julian, by donating the van they need for item #4,” explained Robin Hamm, director of marketing for Timebuyer, Inc.
The 2006 vehicle is valued at about $8,200 and is loaded with power windows, AC, two video screens mounted on the back of the front seats and much more.
The family had just returned from Philadelphia on Sunday following another round of treatments for the youngster.
Julian has been battling neuroblastoma for more than a year. He was diagnosed Aug. 4, 2011. On Aug. 4, 2012, a large benefit raised more than $15,000 to help the family cope with the enormous amount of bills.
Julian and his family make frequent visits to CHOP (Children’s Hospital Of Philadelphia) for his cancer fighting treatments and he often has to be admitted to the hospital.
The cancer started in Julian’s adrenal gland and has spread throughout his body. He has had multiple surgeries, chemotherapy treatments, bone marrow aspirations, scans, transfusions and blood draws.
On Monday afternoon, he looked a little tired from his treatment and the long trip in the family’s old vehicle. That didn’t stop him from smiling as he explored every nook and cranny and every button and switch in his new Chrysler Town and Country.
“I really like it,” he exclaimed as he and his brother played among the rows of seats.
Julian’s Bucket List has about a dozen items. The top five are:
1. To have an upstairs downstairs house where he has an upstairs bedroom. This was his original Make-A-Wish, but they cannot grant any wishes involving real estate. So, a grassroots effort is under way to do the construction.
2. To go to “Atlantis,” a place on TV where he can swim with dolphins and go down some huge slide.
3. That no one else gets his “bad army.” When they originally explained his cancer to him, they did it in a way he could understand. Since he wants to be in the service, we related it to that; he had a “bad army” in him (his cancer) that his “good army” needs to beat in the war going on inside him, his mom, Kristi, explained.
4. To have a van with the automatic doors, sunshades, air conditioner and TV. “Our van is old and rusty. We often take it to Philly. It has no air conditioning, the heat is messed up as are the wipers. He wants to be comfortable since he spends a lot of time in the car,” she said.
5. To have a fish tank like “Tanked.”
Bob Natoli, owner of Timebuyer, said he is more than happy to help the family.
“Life can be tough, we all know that. One of the toughest things that people go through is having a sick child,” he said. “Unless you’ve had a sick child, you really don’t know the pain involved. These folks are really up against it.”
It feels great to know the vehicle will make the family’s trip to the hospital and back home again safer and more enjoyable, he added.
“We really appreciate what the Natolis have done for us,” Kristi said. “Our van is just rusted right out. We took him to Florida in it; it has no air conditioning, windows that only pop open on the side. So they pretty much sweated all the way down. The heat is finicky. It works sometimes and other times it doesn’t. So they bundle in blankets when we take it to Philly.”
Julian didn’t actually pick out the new van. He just told us what specifications he needed, she added.
It’s around 285 miles or so to the hospital, Julian’s dad, Steve, said.
“We usually have to fill up the tank at least twice,” he said. “This van is going to get a lot better mileage.”
It’s just “unbelievable,” he said of the donation.
“Just for the safety alone, it’s going to be great. In our old van we didn’t have much heat in the back and if he catches a virus or something it wouldn’t be good,” he said.
“I never really thought about childhood cancer. I’d see the children and feel really bad for them, but until something like this touches your family, you don’t really understand,” Kristi said. “When you’re affected by it, it changes everything.”
Oswego is a very understanding and giving community, Natoli said. People are very willing to help out their neighbors in need, he added.
Jessica Hofschulte is spearheading “Operation Upstairs/Downstairs House” for Julian to help take care of the first item on his Bucket List.
If anyone can donate time to help, email her at [email protected]
Those who’d like to make a monetary donation can send it to Oswego County Federal Credit Union PO Box 310, Oswego 13126 Attention: “Operation Upstairs/Downstairs for Julian Ross,” she said.
While Julian is receiving treatments, Captain Bananas takes his place in school. Captain Bananas is the name his classmates gave the stuffed monkey that is taking his place in school and keeping him in the minds of the other students, teachers and staff.
Monkey In My Chair is a program originally developed in honor of Chloe Watson Feyerherm for pre-school and elementary aged children who are away from school because of a cancer diagnosis.
Through the program, each child is provided with a “monkey kit,” which includes a big stuffed monkey to take their place in school when they are unable to be there. The students are able to communicate with their classmate using the monkey as a medium. They’re encouraged to write to their classmate and tell them what their monkey has been doing in school during their absence.
Students at his school are selling paper bananas as part of a fundraiser to benefit Julian and his family
“He let the kids name his monkey. So the kids decided that since Julian wants to be in the military, they named him Captain and Bananas because he eats a lot of bananas,” his mom said. “They take him around in school. When Julian isn’t there, Captain Bananas is there for him and the kids tell Julian about what his monkey has been up to.”
To find out more about what’s going on in Julian’s life, here’s the link to his website: http://www.juliansjoust.com/