Fitzsimmons donation to make special wish happen
WARWOOD — A Wheeling native living with the effects of a rare form of lymphoma will get to visit the California Redwood Forest in his wheelchair following a donation from the Fitzsimmons Foundation.
Keandre Benjamin, 21, a graduate of Wheeling Park High School, has plans to travel in March with his family to California for an experience being organized by of the Ohio Valley chapter of A Special Wish Foundation.
Members of the Fitzsimmons family presented a check for $5,800 to Alicia Freeman, executive director of the Ohio Valley chapter of A Special Wish Foundation, on Wednesday at the Fitzsimmons Law Office in Warwood. The money will be directed toward the costs of providing Benjamin his wish of seeing the Redwood Forest and its legendary towering trees in person.
Benjamin is presently living in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area and receiving treatment at Duke University Hospital in Durham. Following the check presentation, the Fitzsimmons family members spoke with Benjamin and his mother, Melanie, online through Skype. Present were Sonny Fitzsimmons; her sons, Rocky and Clayton Fitzsimmons; and daughter, Kayleen Fitzsimmons Clough.
Benjamin explained he moved to North Carolina in 2016, and five months later began to experience health issues. A rare lymphoma was discovered in his spleen, and he would undergo three separate chemotherapy sessions to eradicate the cancer before having a bone marrow transplant.
“I’ve been trying to get better, but there have been complications with my lungs,” he said. “It’s difficult to do everything I want to do. But everything will eventually work out.”
Clayton Fitzsimmons asked Benjamin why he chose to travel to the Redwood Forest as his wish, and Benjamin told him he has wanted to go there since seeing images of the forest in a movie.
“There are a lot of beautiful sites there,” Benjamin said. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I hope to have a great time with my family, and I really appreciate this.”
Clayton Fitzsimmons then asked him to take photos while there and send them back for his family to see.
“I’ve never been there,” he said.
Freeman said she is working with staff at the Redwood Forest to make Benjamin’s visit as enjoyable for him as possible. She admitted there are challenges as natural forests aren’t handicapped accessible to wheelchairs.
“He doesn’t get out much, and I think he just wants to see the trees,” Freeman said. “He can’t breathe well, and it’s hard for him.”