They make wishes come true for Singapore's ill kids
Make-A-Wish Foundation S'pore gathers volunteers and sponsors to fulfil ill boy's dream of a toy gun-themed birthday party
Raphael Lim Zi Xun, nine, had one simple wish - to play a round of Nerf gun war with his friends.
But his acute lymphoblastic leukemia and its treatment got in the way.
He was in and out of the hospital, as often as twice a week, after he was diagnosed. (See report)
About two months ago, he had his wish granted, thanks to volunteer wish granters and staff from the Make-A-Wish Foundation Singapore.
On July 24, his Wish Day - the day his wish was granted - Raphael was a soldier on a mission to save his country. He fought the enemy and detonated a "bomb" in a Nerf gun-themed birthday.
Madam Christie Ang, 32, who was the lead wish-granter for Raphael, says: "Children believe in these stories and we really wanted him to believe he was on a mission that day."
WISH GRANTED: (From left) Mr Wan Hoe Yin, Madam Christie Ang and Mr Jonathan Chew Yuqi of Make-A-Wish Foundation S'pore. TNP PHOTO: GAVIN FOO
For the occasion, Raphael donned a child-size army outfit that his mother, Madam Carol Choo Aileen, 39, had bought.
A fleet of Land Rovers then met him at his home in Ang Mo Kio.
A "commander" handed him a wooden crate with a custom-painted Nerf gun inside.
Raphael then rode to his birthday venue downtown in a convoy of about 20 Land Rovers.
At the birthday venue, some Land Rover owners welcomed him by standing on top of their vehicles and waving at him, says Madam Choo.
She says: "He was so shocked because he has never seen such a big welcome before. All the attention was on him and he was overwhelmed."
For his bravery during the "war", he was presented with a medal of valour. It was "to praise him for his courage during his treatment", says Madam Ang.
Madam Ang, who runs a kitchen equipment business with her husband, was one of three volunteer wish granters assigned.
The other twowere assistant sales manager Jonathan Chew Yuqi, 32, and Mr Wan Hoe Yin, 37, a manager in the manufacturing industry.
The conceptualisation took two months - from finding out Raphael's wish to brainstorming ideas and looking for sponsors.
They visited Raphael to find out his one true wish. Then, they came up with ideas on how to make the wish magical and memorable with a budget provided by the foundation.
Madam Ang says: "We try to dream big and let our ideas run wild first, before narrowing down our options.
"We try not to be limited by the budget. Otherwise, we won't go into crazier ideas."
They enlisted the help of a company that specialises in Nerf-themed parties and also contacted Land Rover Owners Singapore, a club comprising of enthusiasts of the vehicle.
She says: "More than 20 of them turned up and the carpark was not big enough to accommodate everyone. I did not expect it - the response was overwhelming."
The club members were the ones who custom-painted a Nerf gun and made a custom-built box for Raphael.
To build anticipation for the actual day, the wish granters organised a Nerf gun boot camp at Raphael's school.
He played Nerf guns with his classmates during one of their physical education lessons.
The principal and the teachers were supportive, says Madam Ang.
FULFILLED: Raphael Lim Zi Xun having a blast with his Nerf gun. PHOTO: MAKE-A-WISH FOUNDATION SINGAPORE
Mr Jan Kok, 29, the foundation's programme executive, is a Nerf gun lover, and therefore helped to liaise with the school.
On the day itself, everyone, including Raphael's family members, dressed up in military colours.
"There were about six to seven vendors and most of them sponsored their services. We were very lucky because this does not always happen," says Madam Ang.
Her friends also turned out in force to help out with the decorations, manning the children on the bouncy castles and carnival games stalls, as well as cleaning up.
Madam Ang says: "Because of the storyline, the timeline was very important. It was like planning a wedding, but it was worth it.
"He was really hyped up on the day. It was very satisfying seeing him so happy."
Wish Child now leads a normal life
Raphael Lim Zi Xun, nine, was found to have acute lymphoblastic leukemia about three years ago.
It started with a fever, which the paediatrician realised was not normal.
Raphael was then referred to the KK Women's and Children's Hospital.
He was warded the same day, and he underwent chemotherapy within the next few days.
His mother, Madam Carol Choo Aileen, 39, is glad Raphael's condition was detected and treated early.
The administrative executive tells The New Paper on Sunday: "If it wasn't treated immediately, the white blood cells would have eaten up all the red blood cells."
Raphael went through intensive treatment for about a year, followed by treatment every three months.
He completed his treatment early this year, and life is back to normal for him.
He is back in school after a year of delay and is now a Primary 2 pupil at Mayflower Primary School.