September 21, 2018
When the Wolfenden family pulls up to the Sanford Children’s Castle of Care from their home in Aberdeen, 2-year-old Tucker is the first one out of the car. He runs toward the front doors, to a place that’s much more than a hospital.
To Tucker, the Castle holds a fairytale world where he plays a brave hero. Inside these walls, and with amazing caregivers by his side, he has the strength to conquer cancer.
Tucker’s story started in February. His parents, Kelsie and Ryan, noticed their little boy had a fat lip. They soon learned it was more than a toddler’s bump or bruise. Tucker had a rare cancer in the soft tissue of his mouth called rhabdomyosarcoma.
“We realized everything had changed, and we had no idea what was about to happen,” Kelsie said.
Radiation was the biggest battle. Tucker developed mouth sores so painful he refused to eat or drink. He couldn’t even suck on his pacifier for comfort.
“When he looked at us asking and pleading for help, we felt helpless,” Kelsie said. “That helplessness is the worst part.”
Through all those helpless and frightening moments, the Castle has been a welcoming and comforting place for Tucker and his whole family.
“It’s become like a second home for our family,” Kelsie said.
Tucker can laugh and play while his doctors and nurses work to give him a future without cancer. Everyone from the security guard to the Child Life Specialists makes each of the family’s visits feel like a homecoming.
Sanford Children’s Miracle Network makes sure families like the Wolfendens don’t face this journey alone. Donations help purchase lifesaving equipment and technology, assist families with costs not covered by insurance, strengthen the Child Life program, and so much more.