The Children’s Wish Foundation, along with local volunteers, businesses and groups helped fulfill John-Michael Kennedy’s wish for a shopping spree on April 10 in Port Hawkesbury.

PORT HAWKESBURY: John-Michael Kennedy finally got the shopping spree he always wanted.

The 18-year-old Port Hawkesbury resident, who has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, was granted the special wish by the Children’s Wish Foundation.

According to his father, John-Michael was first diagnosed between the ages of 18 and 22 months, and was then placed under the care of the IWK Health Centre,

“It’s known very commonly as a muscle-tissue-eating-style disease that eventually cripples the lower abdominal area,” John Kennedy explained. “There’s nine (forms) of Muscular Dystrophy and John-Michael has the more severe of Duchenne.

“The muscle tissue on John-Michael is depleting as such, so his range of motion, his feeding now is struggling.”

Photos by Jake Boudrot
Volunteers unloaded presents for John-Michael Kennedy at St. Mark’s United Church before proceeding to present them at the Port Hawkesbury Fire Hall.

His father recalled that over the years, mobility and accessibility have proven as constant challenges, but the family has been lucky to receive help from Community Home Support in Sydney and Easter Seals (which donated a new powerchair through PharmaSave in Sydney), as well as Shane MacDougall who donated a 2007 Chevy Uplander two years ago.

“I would like to make thank-you to the Medicine Shoppe here in Port Hawkesbury for all their dedicated work towards John-Michael’s medical needs,” John noted.

About five years ago, John Michael was granted a travel wish from Cathy Sutherland, children’s wish coordinator with the Children’s Wish Foundation.

“NuStar here in Point Tupper, at the time, supported Cathy and her team members at the Children’s Wish Foundation a substantial amount of money as a donated item from the industry,” he recalled. “It gave John-Michael a broader chance than most of the children.”

After gathering at St. Mark’s United Church, fire trucks and vehicles representing local businesses and organizations made their way to the Port Hawkesbury Fire Hall.

Even though wishes are usually granted to children and his son is now 18, John said the Children’s Wish Foundation waived the age requirement last year, allowing them to plan a trip to Florida, but then the global pandemic hit. Because travelling was impossible, on online shopping spree, valued at $5,000, was approved by the wish foundation, John noted.

“What they reverted then was to go online because of their rules as a wish foundation. They’re not permitted with to be with clients to go shopping, as they would normally do,” John recalled.

Unable to go very far, John said he and Sutherland put their heads together, and decided to host last weekend’s event.

“We’ll be doing a drive-by, drop-off of John Michael’s wish and Cathy Sutherland and her team members will be in attendance with other public persons,” he noted on April 6.”I can’t thank Cathy enough. Really I would like, as a family, to thank her, and all her associates around her for her generosity and her dedication.”

John-Michael Kennedy was presented with a 72-inch television on April 10 in Port Hawkesbury.

Last Saturday, a drive-by parade started at St. Mark’s United Church and ended at the Port Hawkesbury Fire Hall where a drop-off took place.

“We’re just trying to be creative. He really wanted to go shopping within the mall, and have the attention and engagement with people, so I think this is a better way. We can engage with people more so this way, and be outside and celebrate together,” Sutherland said. “He’s finally going to be getting the wish that he really wanted.”

Sutherland explained that John-Michael made a list of items he wants, and those items, as well as others, were handed out to the public by the Children’s Wish Foundation to give to this special young man.

People lined up at the Port Hawkesbury Fire Hall for the chance to give John-Michael Kennedy a shopping spree, courtesy the Children’s Wish Foundation.

In addition to the volunteer fire department, the event was attended by residents within and outside the town, local groups, Strait area businesses, as well as Emergency Health Services, Port Hawkesbury RCMP, Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton, and Town Councillor Mark MacIver, who is a neighbour and friend of the Kennedys.

Among the items John-Michael received was a 72-inch TV with a stereo system, a new computer, and material for his upcoming graduation from SAERC, John said.

“What this weekend is showing is the involvement that children’s wish provides to very special needs and very ill, and very suffering young children,” John added. “What they do, from their background, is bring joy to families; it’s much needed a lot of times.”

Once the items were presented and John-Michael Kennedy took a look, they were loaded onto a vintage fire vehicle.