Region 8 child’s wish proves to be a lifesaver

Published: Feb. 20, 2020 at 10:25 PM CST
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - A Region 8 boy knows the power of a wish. It saved Max Gray's life, according to parents.

Abby and Brad Gray are quick to tell you that without the perfect timing of a trip to Florida, their son might not be alive today.

Max Gray, Abby Gray, Brad Gray and Shelby Gray on the day that Max's wish was granted.
Max Gray, Abby Gray, Brad Gray and Shelby Gray on the day that Max's wish was granted.(Source: Make-a-Wish Mid South)

But to understand how the wish call came together, you have to go back in time to a day that Max will never forget.

He was five years old when he found himself chasing "The Joker" through the back roads of Northeast Arkansas.

Nearly 200 people were on hand holding signs as Max made his way past them riding in the "Batmobile."

“The Joker” had given him several clues to follow and Max tracked each one of them down, thanks to help from a Make-A-Wish volunteer.

"You're close enough that I can smell you," Max told "The Joker" at one point.

Then, riding in the "Batmobile," Max's eyes grew even larger.

Wish granter Cliff Carter picked Max up and gave him a fist bump.

“Well guess what? You’re going to Legoland,” Carter said. “How cool is that? Your wish is granted, Dude!”

Finally, a bright spot in Max’s life after months of treatment and surgery to remove a golf ball sized mass.

Max was diagnosed with ependymoma, a type of brain cancer.

“We always knew what Make-A-Wish was,” Brad Gray, Max’s dad said. “We knew what they did. We didn’t realize the motivation that it gives these kids. It gives them something to look forward to because that’s a lot of getting better is your attitude.”

Thanks to Make-A-Wish, Max and his whole family were on a plane to Orlando.

Abby, Max, Brad and Shelby Gray in Disney World.
Abby, Max, Brad and Shelby Gray in Disney World.(Source: Make a Wish Mid-South)

“He got to see the super heroes at Universal and then got to go to Legoland and get his driver’s license,” Abby Gray, Max’s mom said.

He was even knighted at Medieval Times.

Excitement abounded.

"We credit that trip to even noticing it," Brad said.

Max had begun dragging one foot.

"Necrosis shows up very subtle," Brad said.

And it can be deadly. Because Max wanted so badly to run and play in Florida, the damage became evident.

"And we would have not probably noticed it until it was too late," Brad explained.

"If it hadn't been for that trip, we would have missed something that could have been life-threatening to our son," Abby said.

But, since then, Max has worked to help grant other wishes for sick children.

He builds Lego boxes that are auctioned to raise money for Make-A-Wish.

"You've got to cover these corners to make it strong," Max said.

And strength isn't the easiest thing.

Doctors found Max's cancer returned last year.

"We were shocked completely," Abby said

"Our community is just well.." Brad's eyes fill with tears.

The support and kindness shown in the wake of Max’s relapse was overwhelming.

"We were trying to plant a crop and I came home and all my stuff's planted," Brad said. "My family, my neighbors everyone came with tractors and it was done."

And their wish granter. He's a daily source of inspiration.

"Cliff followed us the whole journey... I'm talking daily inspirational devotion to how we can help," Abby said. "He became one of our best friends. That's where we felt the support with Make-A-Wish."

Wherever Max goes for treatment, he is most excited about coming home and going back to school. This is his happy place.

"Welcome back, Max!" Mr. Brad Andrews said. Andrews is Max's first grade teacher at Greene County Tech Primary School.

"He loves school. He loves it!" Abby said.

But, a clinical trial will take Max away to Colorado for about a month.

During that time, he can think about times like these...when he was honored by the Arkansas State Police, became an FBI agent, and...

"He's a deputy of the Greene County Sheriff's Dept. Life-long!" Brad Gray said.

It all started with a wish.

"High five!" Carter said to Max. "Nuckles!"

Carter's smile turns into a huge grin as Max smiles back.

"It gave Max the courage and the confidence and everything that he needed as a little 5-year-old boy," Abby said.

Max is now 7-years-old and just helped to grant a wish for 7-year-old Layxten Clark.

Max makes custom LEGO jewelry boxes that are auctioned off for Make-A-Wish fundraisers.

So far, he’s raised several thousand dollars with the brightly colored boxes.

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