Eastern Montana Kindergartener rides unicorn before heading to St. Jude
(TERRY, Mont.) – The world became a magical place for a special little boy and his family last weekend in Fallon, Mont. Unicorn dreams came true as Wyatt Haas’s kindergarten class gathered for a memorable send-off for their well-loved friend and classmate. Haas, 5, was recently diagnosed with medulloblastoma brain cancer and was accepted into St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. The day before he and his mother flew out the community came together to celebrate Wyatt with “real unicorn” rides, a fairy-tale costume, unicorn cakes, and several hours of playtime in the park on an unusually beautiful December day in Eastern Montana.
Wyatt recently moved to Fallon with his parents, Zach and Corissa, and brother, Asher, 4, and Aspen, 1. About the time he started school this fall in nearby Terry, Mont., he began complaining of headaches and vomiting. His parents thought it was nerves from beginning school. But when he started having problems with his vision and coordination, they took him to a doctor. An MRI showed a sizeable tumor in the back part of his brain, on the brain stem. In mid-November Wyatt underwent emergency surgery in Salt Lake City to remove the tumor. He was released just before Thanksgiving, and got to return to his beloved kindergarten class. But the diagnosis of cancer followed shortly after.
When Jennifer Nielsen heard the news, she, along with most others in the community, was devastated. Nielsen’s son, Landon, is a classmate of Wyatt. They knew of Wyatt’s love of unicorns, rainbows and all things magical. “I thought of our beloved white horse, Bonanza, and thought – ‘We should turn him into a unicorn and have a grand send-off!’” says Nielsen. After talking with Zach and Corissa, they decided to invite his classmates for a fun fairy-tale afternoon the day before he would leave for St. Jude.
The plans came together with the signature touches of a small, rural community. One parent offered to get cakes. Another was bringing drinks. Someone volunteered another “unicorn” so there would be rides for all. The forecast was perfect – a rare, sunny day sandwiched in between winter blizzards. And the best part, Wyatt was feeling well enough to enjoy his special event.
While his classmates and beloved teacher, Mrs. Kay Pisk, cheered him on, Wyatt sat up on his very own unicorn, Bonanza, a patient, 23-year-old gelding trained by Nielsen’s husband, Will, as a 4-H project years ago, and took a ride around the park. Bonanza was spectacular, his mane and tail a rainbow of cattle paint-stick colors and a handmade silver and gold horn atop his head. Wyatt was presented a golden crown and a special sword as he prepared to go to battle, a smile breaking out as his teacher helped him through his nerves. As horns blew and cake was devoured and lines of children formed to ride the unicorns, the thought of ‘This could be any of us,’ was likely not far from the mind of every parent. No one could make the journey the Haas’s have to endure go away, but as a community they came together to offer what they could – love, prayers, food, laughter and ponies.
Nielsen summed up the atmosphere of support and, in a certain way, healing. “I truly believe the most magical part of the day was what transpired within the hearts of those watching Wyatt. Being part of such a special and touching event will be forever etched in the minds of those who were there.”
A GoFundMe account has been set up with a goal of $30,000 to help the family with expenses as Zach stays home in Montana with Wyatt’s siblings and returns to his job at BNSF Railway. The family is hoping that Zach, Asher and Aspen can all travel to Memphis to spend Christmas together as a family with Wyatt and Corissa. Please help make their Christmas wishes come true and their road ahead a little easier by donating to this family at “Wyatt’s Fight” on GoFundMe or “Wyatt’s Journey” on Facebook.
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the June 19, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News