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Happy camper: Make-A-Wish surprises 8-year-old with dream gift

On Saturday, Make-A-Wish North Dakota visited South Heart to surprise young Findley with a camper. Findley was diagnosed in November of 2020 with blastic plasmacytoid dendritic cell neoplasm — which is an extremely rare and aggressive type of cancer.

Findley Dickey, 8, stands in front of a camper he was gifted from Make-A-Wish North Dakota during a special surprise on Saturday, April 2, 2022, in South Heart, North Dakota. Findley was selected as the next wish recipient during a ceremony on March 19 during the Make-A-Wish North Dakota Benefit in Dickinson.
Findley Dickey, 8, stands in front of a camper he was gifted from Make-A-Wish North Dakota during a special surprise on Saturday, April 2, 2022, in South Heart, North Dakota. Findley was selected as the next wish recipient during a ceremony on March 19 during the Make-A-Wish North Dakota Benefit in Dickinson.
Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press
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SOUTH HEART, N.D. — As the embrace of spring shined down on the pavilion, a family gathered to await a special guest of honor — 8-year-old Findley Dickey. When a truck pulled up, young Findley hopped out with his dad and siblings, curious as to what the fuss was all about on a sunny Saturday afternoon in South Heart, North Dakota.

Dressed in a blue Make-A-Wish shirt as one of the wish granters, Eric Ewoniuk approached Findley, saying there was surprise waiting on the other side of the pavilion — a camper from Capital RV Centers. As Eric led the next wish recipient to his gift, Findley was speechless.

Findley was selected during the March 19 Make-A-Wish North Dakota Benefit in Dickinson as the newest recipient on the Western Edge.

Findley Dickey, of South Heart, North Dakota, is all smiles Saturday, April 2, 2022, in his new camper gifted from Make-A-Wish North Dakota.
Findley Dickey, of South Heart, North Dakota, is all smiles Saturday, April 2, 2022, in his new camper gifted from Make-A-Wish North Dakota.
Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press

In November of 2020, young Findley was diagnosed with blastic plasmacytoid dendritic cell neoplasm — which is an extremely rare and aggressive type of cancer. Though many hospital visits and doctor check-ups can be exhausting for a young lad, Findley remained resilient and couldn’t wait to be back, playing with his five siblings.

His parents, Bethany and Michael Dickey, were full of emotion Saturday as Findley sprinted in and out of his camper, along with their five other children.

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“It’s hard to put into words. You watch them go through so much, but there really is good in the whole situation,” Bethany said. “It’s a horrible situation you never want to see your kids go through, but there have been good things and Make-A-Wish is one of the good things.”

The Dickeys were referred to the Make-A-Wish Foundation after a friend suggested that they do something for Findley during his treatment process. They then contacted the foundation and were set up with granters — Marcus Powell and Eric — who began the wish process for Findley.

“They’re great. They’re super, super nice guys,” Bethany said, adding that the two paired ideas with Findley to narrow down the wish list. “One day, he finally was like, ‘You know what? I would like a camper big enough for our whole family.’ Because we had one, but it was small and we’ve had several kids since then; we have six now… That was how he figured it out.”

Findley Dickey's camper, gifted from Make-A-Wish North Dakota, is pictured.
Findley Dickey's camper, gifted from Make-A-Wish North Dakota, is pictured.
Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press

Findley settled for a wish that the whole family could enjoy, his mother noted that, “it’s very nice.”

“... He would have been bored if he didn’t have something everybody could enjoy. If he could have had something by himself, he would have not ended up liking it I think because they are so tight,” she said.

Smiling like a proud dad, Michael added, “Everything he thought of was to play with his siblings with. He never really thought of ‘my own thing’ too much.”

Eric has been a wish granter for five years, and this was the first time he’s been able to fulfill a wish.

“After five years, this is the first one I got to finish. It’s exciting to see the look on the kid’s face and how excited they are and (it’s) something for them to look forward to,” he said. “I have little kids so seeing what these kids go through and the fighting they have to do, it’s tough on me. You’re overjoyed being able to help them (and) give them something to look forward to and help them fight.”

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Findley has been cancer-free since Sept. 28, 2021, and is working on maintaining that for the next year.

“It’s hard to describe. It’s just sweet,” Bethany said, on what this wish means for Findley. “You see him go through so much and then people pull for him like this, and it’s just hard to put a word on it.”

Eric added, “It’s hard on not only the wish kid, but going through their treatments and what not it’s hard on the siblings, it’s hard on mom and dad, it’s hard on everybody... It’s his wish but the parents, siblings and Findley, they all get to enjoy it.”

Sitting on the top bunk in his camper, Findley said he wants to take his family on a camping trip on Beulah Bay.

Fishing is his favorite thing when camping, he said.

“We went fishing today,” Findley said. “We got nibbles, but no bites. I almost caught one because I jerked up and it went heavy then it went light again.”

When asked if he’s a good fisherman, Findley shook he said with a smile and replied, “decent.”

Jackie Jahfetson is a graduate of Northern Michigan University whose journalism path began in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan as a freelancer for The Daily Mining Gazette. Her previous roles include editor-in-chief at The North Wind and reporter at The Mining Journal in Marquette, Mich. Raised on a dairy farm, she immediately knew Dickinson would be her first destination west as she focuses on gaining aptitude for ranch life, crop farming and everything agriculture. She covers hard news stories centered on government, fires, crime and education. When not fulfilling deadlines and attending city commission meetings, she is a budding musician and singer.
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