EAST GULL LAKE - If you were granted one wish, what would that be?
For 7-year-old Lanard Sutherland of Miami, Fla., his wish was simple: He wanted to see snow for the first time.
So the Make-A-Wish Foundation flew Lanard and his parents, Gloria and Elkin Sutherland, to Cragun's Resort on Gull Lake for a long weekend of outdoor activities, including dog sled rides, snow tubing and snowball fights.
The family arrived Friday and planned to stay through Tuesday at Cragun's.
Lanard was 3-1/2 years old on Feb. 25, 2005, when he was diagnosed with kidney cancer, or specifically, rhabdomyosarcoma, a type of soft tissue tumor found in children. Four days later his cancerous kidney was removed and Lanard underwent chemotherapy and radiation.
Lanard Sutherland, 7, of Miami, Fla., appeared a little stunned but in good spirits after receiving his first dog sled ride from Brainerd musher Maury Duval Saturday near Cragun's Resort. Sutherland and his family are staying at Cragun's Resort through Tuesday, a vacation sponsored by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Lanard, who is in remission after battling rhabdomyosarcoma when he was 3-1/2, had a wish to see snow for the first time. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls » Purchase reprints of this photo.
While Lanard responded well to the treatments - he's been in remission for two years, - the radiation scarred his lungs and he's still receiving pulmonary treatments to help him breathe easier. It's a condition his parents are hoping he will outgrow since he battled cancer at such a young age.
For two years, his mom said they've been trying to pin Lanard down and find out exactly what wish he would like granted from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, but Lanard wasn't ready yet.
"He just wasn't interested in anything," his mom said with a laugh. Some of his ideas included going to McDonalds and having a party.
After Lanard had been in the hospital watching a movie about bears that were playing in the snow, he began to wonder what it would like to be in the snow, said his mom. Lanard - along with his mom, Gloria - had never experienced snow and it had been 30 years since his dad Elkin had seen it. Both Elkin and Gloria are from the Bahamas, where Lanard was born, and moved to Miami in 2001.
Lanard kept bringing up the idea of being in the snow so it was decided that this is what his wish would be. The Make-A-Wish Foundation was going to send the family to Vermont but then called and said they had a great place for them in central Minnesota - Cragun's Resort.
A limousine picked the family up at their Miami home and brought them to the airport. Lanard got a chance to meet with the pilot and crew of the airplane that flew them to Minneapolis. Make-A-Wish staffers in Minnesota met the family at the airport and provided them with boots, jackets and all the outdoor gear they would need in Minnesota. Lanard was even given snow toys, like a plastic snowball maker and items to make a snowman, to use on his vacation. The family set out for Brainerd in a rental car provided to them that Lanard himself picked out from the lot.
Gloria said the first thing she had to do when they stopped at a gas station to ask for directions was to feel the snow herself.
"Oh the cold, let me feel if it's honestly for real," Gloria said with a laugh, recalling her first snow experience Friday. "Because I have never been in it myself I honestly felt kind of excited."
The family had weekend plans to go on dog sled rides, horse-drawn trolley rides, play winter survivor games with other resort families, snowmobile and go downhill snow tubing at Ski Gull.
Brainerd musher Maury Duval gave Lanard Sutherland, 7, of Miami, Fla., and his mother, Gloria, a dog sled ride Saturday near Cragun's Resort in East Gull Lake. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls » Purchase reprints of this photo.
"I like it," Lanard said of the cold, wet snow he used to make snowballs Saturday. "I want to make a snowman and a snow angel."
Lanard said he was having fun on this trip but added, "It's too cold in Minnesota."
The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Minnesota is in urgent need of volunteers in greater Minnesota, according to the foundation, which is able to grant about 230 wishes annually to Minnesota children with life-threatening medical conditions. Whether they are planning events and fundraising or out granting wishes, volunteers are helping to make dreams come true.
Those interested in becoming a volunteer may contact Katie Reilly, volunteer manager, at email@example.com or call (612) 767-2758.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.
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