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Former "Wish Kid" shares powerful story with Cherry Creek Elevation classmates

 Garret Rymer speaking to students at Cherry Creek ElevationAs a special season of giving began in the Cherry Creek School District, students at Cherry Creek Elevation heard a powerful message from one of their own.

“December 23, 2021. I was a freshman, 15 years old,” began Elevation junior Garret Rymer. “I was diagnosed with a pilocytic astrocytoma. It’s typically a brain cancer or brain tumor, but I fell into the rare 2% where the tumor doesn’t grow in the brain, but in the spinal cord.”

 Garret Rymer speaking to students at Cherry Creek ElevationRymer’s classmates were silent as he shared his story of battling a cancerous tumor. He spoke to Elevation’s high school students on Jan. 25 and middle school students on Jan. 26, during their weekly “brick days.” Those are days when students at Elevation, which is CCSD’s blended online school, can come to school for in-person classes and activities like Rymer’s presentations. He helped kick off the school’s first-ever Wish Month, benefiting Make-A-Wish Colorado, a 40-year-old non-profit organization that has granted the wishes of more than 6,000 Colorado kids battling critical illnesses.

During his presentations, Rymer took students along on his frightening journey, which began just before Christmas in 2021. Nine months earlier, he injured his arm in a bike accident. After three weeks in a cast and months of physical therapy, his arm had not healed. Several medical tests, including an MRI, ultimately revealed the cancerous tumor. Days later, he underwent a nine-hour surgery, which was only partially successful.

“When I woke up, I couldn’t see, I couldn’t feel my legs, I couldn’t move,” Rymer recalled.

After three weeks in the hospital, he began chemotherapy which was supposed to last two years. Around that time, he was introduced to Make-A-Wish Colorado, which granted his wish was to be on a TV show called Expedition Overland, a vehicle adventure show he started watching during his treatment. You can watch his episode here.

Halfway through his projected two years of chemotherapy, doctors saw enough improvement that the treatment was stopped. Rymer was able to go to the Mayo Clinic for surgery to repair the arm he had originally injured.

During his treatment and recovery, Rymer switched from Cherry Creek High School to Elevation, which offered a schedule that more easily accommodated medical appointments and procedures. Today he attends Elevation full-time, and Cherry Creek High School part-time.

In February, Elevation will hold its inaugural Wish Month, benefiting Make-A-Wish Colorado. Rymer hopes his story will encourage his classmates to get involved in the school’s efforts to raise funds to grant wishes to other children battling critical illnesses. Elevation joins other CCSD high schools, as well as other schools across the state, in supporting Make-A-Wish Colorado.

“Last year alone, schools in Colorado helped us grant over 250 wishes, so these partners are super special,” said Tina Stroman, Development Coordinator for Make-A-Wish Colorado. “It’s really special to see kids impacting kids.”

Rymer, who said he relied on his “faith, family, and friends” to get through his ordeal, is enjoying the opportunity to give back to Make-A-Wish.

“There’s a lot of fulfillment, there’s a lot of purpose in it,” he said. “That just helps me find good in what would otherwise be a bad diagnosis.”

He’s also looking toward the future and a possible career in medicine.

“I used to hate needles, hate medical things. I used to pass out from just getting a shot,” Rymer said. “But now it’s something I have a passion for. Pediatric oncology and neurology are both dear to my heart.”

If you’d like to join CCSD in supporting Make-A-Wish Colorado and other organizations that support children battling critical illnesses, check out the schedule below and contact the high school in your area to participate:

Jan. 22-26 – Smoky Hill High School Wish Week
Feb. 1-29 – Cherry Creek Elevation Wish Month
Feb. 12-16 – Cherokee Trail High School Wish Week
Feb. 12-16 – Cherry Creek High School Power Week benefiting Bags Of Fun/The Gabby Krause Foundation
Feb. 12-16 – Eaglecrest High School Wish Week
Feb. 12-16 – Overland High School Wish Week
March 4-8 – Grandview High School Dream Week benefiting Dream on 3

Posted 1/28/2024.