Sailors pass feats of strength to grant nine-year-old boy’s wish

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Navy News / September 13, 2019

In eight days, they biked 1,000 km, marched in parades and even pulled a fire engine with their bare hands. Then, the sailors of Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Fredericton granted a little boy his wish — playtime outside.

Noah Bennett, 9, has both autism and severe neurodevelopmental issues. He was born underdeveloped and as an infant, just as he was learning to babble and say ‘da-da’, he had a seizure that left him permanently non-verbal, said his mother Julie Bennett.

At two-years-old, a stroke paralyzed the left side of his body.

More than anything in the world, Noah loves playing outside on his family’s backyard deck. However, the deck height is a danger and there isn’t much protection from the sun. The family lives in a mosquito-dense area and because of his condition Noah won’t swat them away. He will often return inside with terribly swollen red arms.

But now things are getting better. Thanks to the over $40,000 raised so-far through HMCS Fredericton’s 11th annual ‘Sailors for Wishes’ Children’s Wish Foundation (CWF) fundraising drive, Noah is having a personal ‘outdoor play oasis’ built for him.

The new play area is going to replace a single shade-giving umbrella with a full roof, have mosquito netting, safety barriers, a sensory play table with water and sand, and an easy access magnetic door from the house so Noah can come and go as he pleases.

Much of Noah’s day is spent going between home, school and multiple doctor appointments. It’s tiring. Sometimes it feels like his play area outside is his only relief from it all, said his mom.

“I just love to see the look of joy on my son’s face when he’s out there,” she said.

Each year ‘Sailors for Wishes’ is a fun and rewarding adventure for the participating crew.

This year, on August 6, 13 sailors started cycling in Shediac, NB, split up into two teams, and then, over the next week, toured different communities in New Brunswick getting up to various fundraising hijinks along the way.

They did anything to get cash for CWF. They held ‘dance with a sailor for a donation’ at local pubs, 50-50 draws, dragged fire engines with both American and Canadian firefighters at the St. Stephens International Fire Truck Pull, and marched in the St. John’s PRIDE parade.

They even just straight-up stopped traffic and asked for cash.

When the two teams rejoined in Fredericton for the campaign ceremony on August 14, they had collected $32,000 in just pure paper and coin cash donations. Further online and organizational donations are still rolling in.

“The neat thing about this event is that in the cities we go to, we get to meet former wish families and they stop and tell us about the wishes they’ve received,” said Lieutenant Commander Nicole Robichaud, Fredericton executive officer and campaign participant.

Other CWF children helped by the Fredericton’s fundraiser this year include:

  • Sophie, 7, with sacral agenesis and spinal bifida who is going to Disney World’s ‘Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique’.
  • Brothers Evan, 14, and Noah, 10, who both have cystic fibrosis, are going together to Los Angeles to meet the creator of the cartoon Stephen Universe, and then to Disney Land.
  • Rachel, 10, who has a brain tumour and who is going to Marineland because she loves animals and sea creatures.

“We’re absolutely honoured and delighted that they do this every year,” said CWF coordinator Pam Shepperd. “These are funds that we rely on now and the generosity of the people of New Brunswick — with the sailors in particular — is always surprising and really heartwarming.”