It's been a big week for Juan Andres-Pedro.
The Lake Oswego 8-year-old hopped on a plane last Friday, received a red-carpet welcome at his hotel and swam in a tropical waterfall — all for the very first time.
The little boy with a colossal personality was living out a dream he's had for nearly half his life.
"One night, I was watching a TV show and it just popped up in my head that I wanted to go to Hawaii," Juan says. "It just looked very beautiful."
Juan's mom, Kerri Markley, says that with eight children ages 4 through 20, she didn't see how she and her husband would be able to make such a trip happen. But last summer, she logged onto the Make-A-Wish website and told the organization about her son's dream of visiting Hawaii, and his unique story.
At just over 2 feet tall, the Oak Creek Elementary third-grader has a form of dwarfism called Spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita (SEDc) with accompanying medical conditions — he has a trach tube and uses a ventilator at night to assist his breathing. But he says being a "little person" has plenty of perks — he can crawl into smaller places and do things that bigger people aren't able to do.
On his YouTube channel and accompanying Facebook page, Juan's World PDX, Juan shares stories about his conditions and his everyday life in hopes of inspiring others. In each short video, his goofy sense of humor and positive nature shine through.
"I just want to show people out there that they can do what they want, just like I can do what I want," he says. "Making people happy makes me really happy, too."
Hope as medicine
Since 1983, Make-A-Wish Oregon has granted more than 3,535 wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions in Oregon and Clark County, Wash.
According to the organization, children's wishes typically fall into four categories: "To Be" a zookeeper, firefighter or other professional; "To Meet" a favorite celebrity or athlete; "To Have" a puppy, playhouse or other longed-for item; and "To Go" to a dream destination or major sporting event.
Make-A-Wish Oregon never turns away an eligible child, says Tracey Lam, the nonprofit's public relations and communications manager.
"Our goal is to really provide the wish child and the family with hope and strength," she says. "Hope is a really powerful medicine, and that's something that a wish experience is able to give them."
Lam says that the organization worked closely with its Hawaii chapter to make Juan's wish a reality, setting him and his family up for five nights in the presidential suite at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel in Honolulu. They also arranged for Juan to take part in three activities of his choice: a Circle Island Tour, a visit to Sea Life Park where he hoped to feed some animals, and a traditional luau.
Markley says that when she told Juan last fall that his wish was being granted, he was hesitant at first.
"I think he was afraid to get excited," she says. "He was afraid it wasn't going to happen."
But as the trip drew closer and Juan received the necessary doctor approvals and even a paper chain to count down to the trip, he could hardly contain his enthusiasm about spending time on the beach, checking out his hotel's 70-foot-long waterslide and swimming in a waterfall.
And he was eager to experience it with his parents and six of his siblings — all those who are under 18 — despite what he might have said in his goofier moments.
"I'm not really excited to go with my family," he said with a grin last week. "Just kidding! I'm so excited!"
To see Juan's videos and updates, visit his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/juansworldpdx or his YouTube channel at bit.ly/2n3oHMD.