■ Kyle Selby / Reporter
In an effort to right things that went awry the first time around, 13-year-old Ryan Schwyzer received the backyard of his dreams on Saturday, Sept. 30, courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Orange County/Inland Empire chapter.
Ryan, who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF) when he was about 18 months old, has spent most of his life in and out of the hospital undergoing numerous treatments, feeding through a gastronomy tube, and taking enzyme tablets and nebulizer therapy daily. Even so, Ryan appears as normal as any kid his age.
Saturday wasn’t the first time Make-A-Wish (MAW) had visited the Schwyzer home. On Aug. 17, Ryan’s initial wish of a backyard swimming pool was granted, but soon hit a snag in the road when the Hemet Fire Department noticed that the water they were using from the nearby city hydrant was filling the pool with brown water.
In an attempt to course-correct the situation, the Fire Department brought Ryan out to their engine parked outside and invited him to suit up in their gear, spray the fire hose, and take a ride. But the disappointment in their backyard still lingered, most notably with his mother, Traci.
“It’s not like how they make it look on TV,” said Traci. She says that Ryan initially wished for the “ultimate backyard hangout,” complete with a swimming pool, a basketball hoop, and a ramp he could use to ride his scooter. In the days following, Traci made her disappointment very public on social media, ultimately reaching out to the chapter’s CEO. “This chapter had terrible communication and from the beginning; never really got to know our son,” she wrote in one post. Ryan likes magic tricks, the Rubik’s cube, basketball, and his scooter. None of that was implemented the first time around.
Little did she know that her efforts would bring MAW back to her house for a second time.
“We wanted to make it right,” said Stephanie McCormick, CEO of Make-A-Wish OC/Inland Empire chapter. “We went back and talked to his wish-granters, and said, ‘you know what? Let’s make it better.’ So that’s what we did.”
One of the first things they implemented during the revisit was a sod lawn the day before, so the pool could be relocated into a more suitable area.
Ryan arrived Saturday after spending the day at Mulligan Family Fun Center with his father and older brother. In addition to the pool, a fire pit, lawn furniture, a basketball hoop, and the main attraction – an 8-foot by 16-foot skating ramp from OC Ramps – were installed in Ryan’s backyard, accompanied by pro skateboarder Christian Sereika, who showed off some slick moves for the crowd. Hemet Home Depot also helped the MAW volunteers construct a shaded awning for the backyard.
“I’m ridiculously happy,” said Traci. “How often in life do you have a problem with a situation, and have a person come back and be willing to make it right? It’s great!”
A magician, Clifford Pigott from Table Trix, performed a magic show for Ryan and his friends, while the adults sat, watched, and ate a meal catered by Chick-Fil-A at tables littered with Rubik’s cubes of all sizes. Ryan later solved one of the Rubik’s cubes for a crowd in less than 15 seconds; close to his 8-second personal best.
“Thank you so much,” Ryan told one of the Make-A-Wish volunteers, with a huge smile on his face. “This is so crazy.”
Make-A-Wish OC/IE granted 325 wishes last year and participated in 696 wish assists. They are currently seeking more volunteers in the Hemet/San Jacinto area. If you would like to volunteer, visit ocie.wish.org.