Henry’s Wish: Pay it Forward, Spread Joy

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PORTLAND — One young Oregonian’s act of generosity has left a lasting impact on a very special community.

Seventeen-year-old Henry Hernandez set out on a mission to bring comfort and happiness to children on the oncology floor of the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) Hospital. His ultimate goal: “to pay it forward, bring smiles, and spread joy.”

And spread joy, he did. On Friday — exactly one year to the day after OHSU removed his cancerous tumor— Henry surprised young cancer patients and their families with colorful stuffed animals and toys. In return, he was greeted by tearful parents… and some very excited kids.

Henry Make-A-Wish
Lots of smiles over Henry’s surprise wish and stuffed animal gifts. Photo Credit: Molly Smith

“I hope for them to receive the teddy bear and have a heartwarming feeling of joy and happiness, even for the moment, it means a lot,” Henry says.

In June 2018, Henry was diagnosed with a germ cell tumor. When he was in treatment, Henry remembers trying to stay strong for his family. The hardest part, he says, was knowing how his diagnosis impacted them.

During his hospital stay, he often felt scared and nervous — until a nurse gifted him a teddy bear. Henry says he held onto the bear during treatment, and that it helped with the anxiety he was feeling. This act of generosity left such a lasting impact on him that when the Make-A-Wish Foundation entered his life and asked him what his wish would be, he knew right away that it was to give stuffed animals to other children at OHSU who may be feeling anxious while undergoing treatment.

With the help of volunteers, donors, and supporters, Make-A-Wish grants ‘wish’ experiences to children diagnosed with a critical illness. The belief is that a wish can be a game-changer.

Henry Make-A-Wish with kids
Photo Credit: Molly Smith

With his family and the Make-A-Wish team, Henry hit the Clackamas Town Center, stopping first at the Disney store to pick out as many stuffed animals as possible. He brought all the gifts to OHSU, where he handed them out to other kids and families.

“Henry’s generous spirit truly moves me,” says Governor Kate Brown. “I know that his actions will bring smiles to the faces of many kids undergoing cancer treatment right now, and that this ‘wish’ will send a ripple effect of kindness throughout the community.”

You never know when a simple act of kindness can change someone’s life. 

“Being here today is a blessing. I am super thankful,” Henry says about his wish. “I just can’t believe this day came to real life.”

Inspired by Henry’s story? Follow his lead and ‘pay it forward’ today. Something as simple as a smile to a stranger, or nice gesture for a friend or family member, can mean the world.

About Author

Natalie King is the Media Strategist with the Office of Governor Kate Brown.

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