The Make-A-Wish Foundation just helped a young 16-year-old from Ohio with a critical illness become an honorary Marine. Sam Short of Columbus, Ohio, suffers from spinal cancer, but wasn’t going to let his diagnosis derail his dream of military service.
At a glance
- Sam Short received a cancer diagnosis four years ago at 12 years old
- The Make-A-Wish Foundation, which helps arrange experiences for children with critical illnesses, enrolled Sam in Marine boot camp for his wish
- After his two day boot camp, Sam received his honorary Eagle, Globe and Anchor — the emblem of the U.S. Marine Corps, which all graduating recruits receive
Sam wished to go to Parris Island in South Carolina to endure two days of training in a real Marine Corps boot camp.
“Even though they were just two-and-a-half days, it really was a life-changing experience for Sam,” Tori Short, Sam’s mom, told Fox News Digital.
Sam may be fighting cancer, but otherwise he lives a normal life. He’s a high school sophomore with a driver’s license and a love of sports like baseball and basketball. He even holds a part-time job at the local hardware store when not in school.
Four years ago when he was just 12 years old, Sam suddenly struggled to walk and maintain balance. In December 2018, doctors found a tumor of Sam’s spine and neck vertebrae. Doctors removed the tumor, but the cancer returned aggressively soon after. Even after a second surgery, Sam needed to undergo chemotherapy and radiation, which he said makes him feel “awful.”
“[The cancer has] basically taken a lot of the things that I loved to do away,” Sam said. “I can’t play sports, which is really hard. But it was definitely hard balancing school and treatment.”
His mother, Tori, said that the family tries to take the news with optimism and a level head.
“We try to not get ahead of ourselves,” she said. “And we also try not to get stuck.”
“We live scan to scan,” she continued, “and try not to live in the anxiety of what might happen. [We’re] trying to really continue to hope and push forward and also live in the reality [that] things can change at a moment’s notice.”
Sam became an honorary Marine after his boot camp
To maintain normalcy, Tori said they try to treat Sam like a typical teenager.
“Despite Sam’s diagnosis, he still has to do laundry and mow the lawn and do normal chores,” she said. “We try to keep things as normal as possible because on the other side of this is real life.”
Sam’s wish to become a Marine actually follows in the footsteps of the foundation’s original wish. In 1980, a terminally ill seven-year-old boy named Chris Greicius wanted to become a police officer — and a great idea for a non-profit was born.
“When you help grant a wish, you restore hope for a child and help them reclaim their childhood, which is what the U.S. Marines have done for Sam and so many other Make-A-Wish kids,” Make-A-Wish America spokesperson Jono Smith said.
Sam went through a shortened, two day version of boot camp that usually lasts 13 weeks for regular new recruits. He endured the obstacle course, the gas chamber, and the yelling that comes from drill instructors. Seven Marines on Parris Island left their ranks for two days to join him during the training.
“I was really honored. It was really, really cool,” Sam said of the experience.