LISBON - A 3-year-old Lisbon boy has been granted his wish. On Saturday morning Lelund and his family will fly to Walt Disney World Resort in Florida through the Make A Wish Foundation.
Lelund Reynolds, who turns four this December, was diagnosed with Langerhans cell Histiocytosis, or LCH, at only six months old.
His mother, Rebecca Kennedy, said Lelund underwent five surgeries before the age of six months. Before the diagnosis the family thought all he needed was a simple operation to put tubes in his ears because they had been bleeding.
After trips to Pittsburgh Children's Hospital and another hospital in the metro area, a full-body scan showed tumors throughout his entire body.
Kennedy said a tumor in his right arm had expanded so much that it caused his arm to fracture. At one point, a doctor suggested amputation.
But Kennedy's fiance and Lelund's father, Merl Reynolds, wouldn't have that. Visits to another doctor revealed the LCH, a rare cell disease that manifests as lesions on the various organs of the body. It is similar to leukemia.
According to a publication of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the chances of someone having LCH under the age of 10 is thought to be 1 in 200,000 each year.
Lelund underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments immediately after the diagnosis. The disease and the treatments never stopped him from enjoying life and playing with his five siblings, his parents said.
"You don't even know he's sick," Kennedy said.
Due to the nature of LCH, Lelund was ordered to take it easy. Symptoms include fever, lethargy, and weight loss.
But Lelund's hunger for play didn't fade with the sickness, so his father made up a game they could both enjoy, Kennedy said.
In their back yard on Maple Street, the two play "pretend baseball." The game includes an imaginary ball the two toss back and forth, she explained.
Merl Reynolds said he doesn't want to limit Lelund because of the disease and tries to make sure he doesn't feel set apart from the rest of the family.
"He does anything normal kids do," he said.
His uncle, Justin Reynolds, took him fishing at Highlandtown Lake this summer and he helped him and Merl catch minnows with a net.
"He's the happiest little kid you've ever seen," Justin Reynolds said.
On Thursday Make A Wish volunteers Patty Sugar and Bonnie McCoy hosted a party at the Maple Street home.
Between eating pizza donated from East of Chicago and Mary's Pizza, Lelund played with friends and family and even tossed a few soft balls around in the back yard and rode a bicycle.
Trina Colgrove, Lelund's "gee-maw," said the diagnosis has brought the family closer together.
"It was hard to believe he was diagnosed at such a young age," she said. But she has noticed over time that Lelund gains strength from his father and family, and in turn, the family gains strength from Lelund.
"He's an all-around good kid. He's been through more than he can handle. He has energy, he loves people and he loves to ride off-road," long-time family friend Gary Blair said.
Kennedy said Blair took it upon himself to make sure that Lelund and his siblings could see their father when he was in jail.
Blair said that every Saturday for six months he took the kids for a visit and "never missed a beat."
Now together again, the family is looking forward to going to Florida for Lelund's wish.
Patty Sugar said the family will be taken to the airport in a limousine and their accommodations and transportation in Florida are also being taken care of through the foundation.
"It's a wonderful program. It's a week where they don't have to worry about anything," she said.
The program is for ages two-and-a-half to 18 who are battling a life-threatening illness. Those who are granted a wish are not necessarily terminal, she noted.
In Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky, about 900 kids are waiting for a wish, she said. The program receives no state funding and operates solely on donation.