Bowen Johnson is a recipient of the Grant-A-Wish program granted by Louisiana State Police Troop D. He was granted a wish to go to the Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, Texas. Kalee Oden and many of his friends and family joined him at Chuck E. Cheese's to celebrate on Wednesday. (Michelle Higginbotham / American Press)
Last Modified: Thursday, August 02, 2012 7:42 PM
Steve and Eva Johnson haven’t been able to take a family vacation in several years — since their son, Bowen, was severely burned in a house fire in October 2008.
Next week, the family will spend several days at the Great Wolf Lodge, an indoor water park in Grapevine, Texas, courtesy of the Louisiana State Police Troop D Grant-A-Wish Program. Bowen, a 7-year-old student at Western Heights Elementary, celebrated the news during a party at Chuck E. Cheese’s on Wednesday.
Eva said an indoor water park is the perfect place for Bowen because his lack of pores causes him to overheat easily while outdoors, especially in the summertime. She said the park also has an indoor beach, one of which Bowen hasn’t visited since the accident.
“He’s never been to a big water park,” she said. “I know he’s absolutely thrilled about it.”
Johnson said the trip is a welcome change from the family’s usual summertime schedule. Bowen has undergone 21 surgeries since the accident, the most recent in April after he suffered cardiac arrest while at school.
Bowen also suffers from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which causes the heart muscle to become abnormally thick, making it difficult for the organ to pump blood.
“We spend all our summers indoors,” his mother said. “Our vacation time is used for these medical trips, so (the vacation) is just a beautiful thing for him. It’s going to bring him a great memory.”
Paula Livingston, the program’s wish coordinator, said it was easy to make Bowen’s wish come true.
“His wish was to play in the water,” she said. “It’s the most rewarding thing you can do. To see the smile on their faces when you tell them they are going to get their wish is just amazing.”
Steve Johnson said Bowen has always loved playing in water, even before the accident.
“Right now, it’s just a lot of happiness today,” he said. “Being able to go as a family is a dream come true. This is going to be really special.”
Chance Thomas, a senior trooper for Troop D, said the program allows troopers to show a different side than just law enforcement.
“It lets us give back more” than just performing the job of a state trooper, he said.
After the vacation, Bowen has a surgery scheduled for Aug. 21 at Shriner’s Hospitals for Children in Cincinnati, which specializes in caring for burned children.
The Grant-A-Wish Program is modeled after the national Make-A-Wish Foundation. The money for each wish comes from donations.
For information about the Grant-A-Wish Program, call Livingston at 794-5903.