Laughter and excitement filled the air and positive vibes exuded from the walls of South Marshall Middle School last week as its students threw a send-off luau for one of their own. Dylan Nanney, a 6th grader, and his family left that same evening for a vacation in Hawaii, courtesy of the Make-A-Wish foundation.
The party began with all the students lining the hall, decked out in their Hawaiian/summery gear and leis, cheering on Nanney as he walked through the halls. Then they all gathered in the bleachers where the choir sang “We Know the Way,” a song from the movie Moana and Principal Shannon Solomon presented him with gifts for his journey. After a limousine ride with friends and a few family members (siblings and cousins) around the school, Nanney joined his classmates for Dippin’ Dots before heading to a Bluegrass performance by Aaron Thompson and Carson McKee.
Just after school was dismissed, Nanney and his family were transported via limousine to the Nashville airport where they departed for their vacation in paradise.
Many of Nanney’s family members were there, both immediate and extended, to show their support as well. His father, Jason, was attentive and doing his best to document the entire process for the family and for Nanney’s following on his Facebook page, ‘Dylan’s Journey.’ He said they’ve spent the last 15 months going back and forth between home and St. Jude’s in Memphis so “it’s definitely time for a break,” and something the family was very much excited to do.
Nanney clammed up a bit, shrugged his shoulders and bashfully said he thought it would be a nice place for his family to go when asked why he chose Hawaii. Jason said he suggested Nanney choose a foreign country and Nanney said Hawaii was close enough.
Nanney was diagnosed some time ago with Ewing sarcoma (bone cancer), and beat it. But then it came back so they fought it again. Now, Jason said, it’s gone in his neck but is still present in his lungs. He said the chemotherapy stopped working, so they’re taking a three-week break from treatment to let his body ‘dry out,’ then they’ll begin the fight again.
Lori Brubaker, a volunteer wish-granter with the Make-A-Wish foundation who has worked with the Nanney family since Feb. said when the foundation learned the chemotherapy stopped working and the medical staff ordered a break in treatment, they decided to move up the date of Nanney’s trip.
“Dylan just needs a break so he can get back up and continue his fight and come back and go to St. Jude’s and take on this cancer full force,” she said. “We just want him to know that he is loved and that there are hundreds and hundreds of people pulling for him. I think this will brighten his spirits and there can’t be a better place than Hawaii to revive him and rest and get ready to come back full force.”
Jason thanked Make-A-Wish, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, SMMS, Dippin’ Dots of Paducah, XPO Logistics, Parkway Chrysler in Benton, Big H Auto Mart and Walmart in Benton for their contributions to Nanney’s special day, as well as the community for their continued prayers and overwhelming support.