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Avera Medical Minute: Make-A-Wish kid chooses to help other kids at Avera McKennan

Published: May. 2, 2021 at 9:10 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -

Seven-year-old Koen loves his life on the farm.

“These are the babies, you see them,” said Koen.

Sometimes he can play outside.

“I just say moo...the cows will come to me,” said Koen.

Sometimes he needs to be away from the dust.

“Something wrong with my lungs,” said Koen.

Breathing can be a struggle.

“I get up I do my vest, my nebulizer at the same time. I either play games, watch TV or something like that. And then I do my inhaler,” said Koen.

When he’s away from the house, there’s a backup plan.

“I have my inhaler and my epi-pen, and another shot, and my puke bags. And I have this...gum,” said Koen.

When Make-A-Wish approached him, he wanted his wish to be about farming.

“I wanted to make the waiting room more of a fun place,” said Koen.

Koen’s wish day reveals his year-long design; an interactive farm-themed waiting room for the little patients in Plaza one at Avera McKennan.

“Usually, when I’m sitting here I’m just like, ‘Mom, can I be done?’ and so I hope this will get their mind off it,” said Koen.

The whole family has a heart for other children who come to see their doctor.

“There are millions of sick kids every day. And, you know, they might not just have the platform to tell their story,” said Koen’s Mom Shanda.

Dr. Wilfredo Veloira referred Koen to the Make-A-Wish program. He has seen firsthand the benefits of the program on his patients.

“They have, they’re able to cope better with their illnesses. they have a better quality of life. They become less anxious they’re happier,” said Dr. Veloira.

Joe Evenson is the Senior program director at Make-A-Wish. He has been working with Koen on the project for the last year. Koen pretty much has the final say. The tractor was initially designed to be green, which Koen changed to red to reflect the machinery on their farm. A black and white cow was changed to all black, like the ones on the family farm.

“When Make-A-Wish comes in it gives them the power and choice back, and we really do allow them to explore their creativity, their imaginations, which came to life right there in Koen’s wish,” said Evenson.

If Koen can make the day brighter for other kids, he’s happy too...whether it’s kids coming to Avera McKennan, or his classmates on a virtual chat at school. Mary is his first-grade teacher.

“He’ll serenade us or will play the piano. “He has a lot of talents and he likes to be involved and likes to share those. Koen is...he’s a great kid,” said Mary.

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