In just a few weeks, 15-year-old cancer survivor Adelyn Spahr will be swimming with dolphins and hiking volcanoes.
Before that, however, the Nashville teen had some duties to fulfill as Toyota Material Handling’s “CEO for a Day.”
The company, which is sponsoring Adelyn’s wish to go to Hawaii, invited her and her family to its Columbus facility on Wednesday for a day of fun activities — such as making some company decisions, trying out virtual reality technology, touring the factory floor and unwrapping a variety of gifts from Toyota.
The day culminated with the announcement that, thanks to a number of company fundraisers, Adelyn’s wish had been granted and the family’s trip is set for June 19 to 25. Then, as the wall of the presentation room slid away and the theme to “Hawaii Five-O” was played, the Spahrs were met with a cheering, dancing team of Toyota employees and a pizza party lunch.
According to President and CEO of Toyota Material Handling North America Brett Wood, Adelyn is the eighth Make-A-Wish child sponsored by the company and the third to be CEO for a day.
“This is my favorite day of the year,” he said.
Wood noted that Adelyn’s wish had to be put on hold for a time due to both her surgeries and the pandemic. She even considered changing the wish to help her family by having their basement finished so that her siblings would each have a special area for their hobbies. However, she was eventually cleared for travel.
The timing of the trip actually worked out well, as 2022 marks the 20th wedding anniversary for Adelyn’s parents, Paul and Adrianne Spahr, who went to Hawaii on their honeymoon, Wood said. Adelyn said this inspired her wish — well, that and the idea of meeting up with some dolphins. She also plans to go to a luau and have some Kona coffee. Adrianne added that their plans also include hiking on the volcanoes.
Adelyn expressed gratitude for everything Toyota did to set up her special day.
“It’s kind of crazy that you guys did all of this for me,” she said, amid the luau-themed decorations and pizza party.
Paul likewise said that Toyota’s gifts were “beyond our expectations.”
“We were just hoping for her to be with the dolphins and go swimming,” he said.
Adelyn has been cancer-free for a few years now. However, her mother currently has metastatic breast cancer. She previously had breast cancer when she was 22, and it returned in 2017.
“We found that out six months before we found out about Adelyn,” said Adrianne. “So we were all adjusting. I’m still fighting, but I’m doing O.K.”
Prior to being diagnosed, Adelyn had a lump below her left knee that she pointed out to her mother. At first, Adrianne didn’t think much of it. However, when it didn’t get smaller, Paul said they should get it checked out.
As it turned out, Adelyn had periosteal osteosarcoma. According to the National Cancer Institute, this is a rare type of bone cancer that typically forms on the surface of the tibia and femur legbones.
Dealing with Adelyn’s cancer was difficult, said Paul.
“The hardest part was she was my little girl,” he said. “And then all of the sudden, things had to change, and she had to take on a lot of things that she wasn’t prepared for. So it was very difficult to watch her grow up so quickly.”
There were eight surgeries, and it took about a year and a half to get the wound cleared up, said Adrienne. While watching each procedure was hard, she feels that Adelyn has grown as a person.
“It’s made me realize ‘Don’t take stuff for granted,’” said Adelyn.
“I feel like she is way more mature than any 15-year-old you’re gonna meet,” Adrianne said. “And she’s grown from it. She really has. She’s become stronger than she knows. She also really loves her scar; she looks at it as a battle wound.”
Wood also commended Adelyn for her strength.
“You’re going to have a wonderful, wonderful future,” he told her. “I think your future has potential leadership in there somewhere, whether it’s a CEO or whatever you do, I know you’re going to do great things. So congratulations on what you’ve already accomplished, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you.”