Make-A-Wish: Mark Carnes

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(WRIC) — 8News is taking the lead by teaming up with Make-A-Wish Greater Virginia to help grant wishes for kids battling critical illnesses.  

TODAY, we’re hosting the ‘Wishes in Flight’ telethon — raising money and unused airline miles to help grant wishes to local kids and teens with critical illnesses.

Katie Dupree sat down with a local teenager who says Make-A-Wish changed his life.

“It was like the peak of my middle school career and it kinda got ripped away from me right at the beginning,” says Mark Carnes, now an 11th grader at the Steward School in Richmond.

 After battling intense stomach cramps three summers ago, his mom took him to the emergency room.

“When we left, we ran out of the house with dinner on the table and we didn’t come back for two weeks,” he said.

Mark was diagnosed with Stage 3 Burkitt’s Lymphoma soon after when he was just 14.

“I went through 6 months of intense chemotherapy … and a lot of nausea,” he explained.

Months of isolation, in-and-out of the hospital, was tough on Mark and his mom Gwendolyn, but Make-A-Wish Greater Virginia provided hope when there seemed to be none.

“I had lost a lot of weight,” Mark said. “I think I dropped down to 98 pounds during treatment, so it really helped me escape from like the medical reality that I was in.

“It really just gave me an outlet to be a kid again.”

Mark’s mom said the same thing.

“All of your thoughts, all of your time, is spent fighting this disease. And all of a sudden you have an outlet. It is a lifesaver mentally, physically, emotionally.”

Mark has wanted to be a pilot since he can remember, and dreamed of going to the Air Force Academy. Make-A-Wish Greater Virginia made Mark’s dream a reality by sending him to MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.

“And the next day I go and fly in an L-39 Albatross which is a Czechoslovakian light attack aircraft. It was awesome. It went mach like .8, which was super fast. We pulled 5 Gs, did zero gravity, rolls, turns, and he let me fly it for like 20-30 minutes,” he says.

Months of isolation, in-and-out of the hospital, was tough on Mark and his mom Gwendolyn, but Make-A-Wish Greater Virginia provided hope when there seemed to be none.

Mark’s mom smiled the whole time she talked about his wish.

“It was magnificent. I hadn’t seen him smile in quite some time,” she said. “And suddenly he was grinning ear to ear. As was I, as was everyone. It was very contagious.”

So with his wish fulfilled—that just strengthened his dream of one day becoming a pilot—and an aeronautical engineer.

“He let me fly the plane. It was amazing. Make-A-Wish changes lives. It certainly changed mine.”

Because of the impact Make-A-Wish Greater Virginia had on Mark, he now serves on the Youth Leadership Council with other students promoting awareness and raising money for the organization.

You can support Make-A-Wish Greater Virginia by tuning in Tuesday, April 16th for the “Wishes in Flight” telethon to donate money or unused airline miles starting at 9 a.m.  on ABC8.

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