Nine-year-old Lucas Appleton of Grover Beach said he “almost screamed my heart out when I knew we were going,” referring to his family’s recent trip to the Disneyland Resort, sponsored by the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“It was a whirlwind experience,” said mom Casandra Appleton of their five-day excursion, which included dad Jeff and brother William, 13.
The family was treated to the grand opening of Cars Land at Disney California Adventure, a new section of the theme park inspired by the Disney and Pixar “Cars” movies. They “got to go to the preview party and grand opening,” Casandra said. Michelle Cota, their wish granter, is a “wonderful, wonderful woman,” she said.
There were three new attractions in Cars Land. Lucas called the Radiator Springs Racers “super fun.”
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At Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, “you whipped across” in figure eights, his mother said. The third new attraction, Luigi’s Flying Tires, “was real fun.” It was “like hovercraft huge beach balls a lot of laughter and a lot of fun,” Casandra said. When asked how his brother liked the rides, Lucas replied, “He loved it.” These two attractions have adaptations that make them more easily wheelchair accessible.
Lucas has Friedreich’s ataxia, a disease that causes progressive damage to the nervous system. It can affect speech or the ability to walk, and can lead to heart disease and diabetes. It is expected to get worse. Lucas has gone from fully functioning to using a walker and sometimes a wheelchair.
He tires out quickly, says his mother, and it sometimes takes him a while to finish what he’s trying to say. Lucas is on maintenance therapy, mainly physical and swim therapy. Despite all this, Lucas smiles often and showers his mother with kisses.
“The dog will provide him with a constant companion,” said his mother. Falling is a big issue. The dog will be “his best friend and (stabilize) him when he picks something up and give him so much more quality of life,” she added.
Lucas also says a service dog can comfort him when he gets bad headaches and needs to rest.
It’s hard for Lucas at school because he can’t run and play catch with his friends.
“I’m hoping (for) a golden retriever,” he said. The price for a trained service dog runs from $12,000 to $15,000. More funds are needed for training for Lucas and the dog. If additional funds are raised, they will go toward a van so Casandra can transport Lucas, his dog, walker and wheelchair.
The fundraiser will be held at Mongo’s at Fourth Street and West Grand Avenue in Grover Beach and will include a barbecue, live music, a DJ, raffles and prizes. Lucas’ brother William will sing “Amazing Grace.” Lucas’ dad, Jeff, will be playing in his band, Smokin’ Gunz.
“We’re just really grateful for the support of the community, Make-A-Wish Foundation, American Property Services and Mongo’s,” Casandra said.
A portion of the food money goes for the dog. Raffle tickets (from $1 to $100) provide the bulk of the funds.
The event is free and goes from 10:30 a.m. to late at night. To donate money or raffle prizes, or for more information, contact Linda McClure at 489-1236 or 748-7673.
Gayle Cuddy and Cynthia Lambert write the South County Beat column on alternating Wednesdays. Reach Cuddy at 489-1026 or firstname.lastname@example.org.