When Dan Quaglieri was asked to make-a-wish after being diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, he could have chosen to meet his favorite athlete, movie star or musician, but all he wanted was to cruise on a snow-mobile or ride on an all terrain vehicle.
Unfortunately, the Make-A-Wish Foundation cannot provide `motorized wishes,` according to Dan’s dad, Tom, of Guilderland. It is because of Dan’s love of off-road vehicles, and Tom’s desire to give back to the community, that Tom founded 4Wheeling 4Healing after his son was diagnosed with cancer in the seventh grade. Now, Dan is 18 years old, and giving ATV rides to other kids with cancer, heart-disease and other hospitalizing illnesses as part of the 4W4H program his dad set up.
Dan also acts as an active ear for those who take rides, listening to their stories and sharing experiences battling cancer.
`It made him become a lot more outgoing,` he said.
Tom went on to praise the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which provided a trip for his family to Hawaii and spent thousands of dollars trying to give Dan happy memories.
`It really is a phenomenal organization,` Tom said. `Don’t get me wrong. But we said, ‘You know what, we’re going to fill in that void in the system there.’`
Tom said he was never able to gain a totally clear understanding of the legalities behind why Make-A-Wish does not provide `motorized wishes` but said he wanted to do something where he could grant that sort of present for a child who wants it.
He said his organization receives permission from the doctor, making sure the child is healthy enough to ride, and then Tom, or one of his six family members who participate take them to a trail nearby for a day of fun and excitement.
He said there are multiple benefits to providing the rides, especially for kids who are used to playing sports or who were otherwise active before getting sick.
`If you were athletic, you might miss a season or two,` he said. `You lose the adrenaline rush.`
He said riding on the machine lets you get that rush back.
`Even if you were a team player, you can get that rush from you and the machine,` he said. `It’s a release.`
Tom takes the kids on a Polaris Razor side-by-side unit. Each one costs close to $10,000. Quaglieri said he has three units, and is expecting to replace two. Each was purchased with his own money, but he said he is actively seeking sponsorship for his organization.
He said 4W4H caters to kids all around the state, and will make the effort to come to doctors and hospitals rather than make the child or family travel.
Tom said the Trail Riders Expo, at the Indian Lookout County Club south of Amsterdam, from Thursday Aug. 20 to Sunday, Aug. 23, will provide his program with an opportunity to both raise money for 4W4H and to meet other riders who he can network with and discuss trails in areas outside on the Capital District where he can give rides when traveling.
Tom said $5 from each ticket will go to 4W4H, and he can put that toward gas, maintenance, T-shirts, hats and amenities for the kids as well as other expenses associated with the program.
Bob Ski, promoter of the Trail Riders Expo, said the program is thrilled to be a part of 4W4H charitable efforts, and is also participating in the Marines Toys for Tots program as well.
`Anything we can do for the kids,` Ski said.
He said an opening ceremony featuring a demonstration by military personnel, fireworks, rides, local and regional bands and more will be available. Participants will have the opportunity to camp on site if they desire, and tickets start at $35.
`Manufactures will be on hand with some of the vehicles,` Ski said. `It’s a real good time, a very family oriented event.`
For information on 4W4H, call 355-4028 or 928-7679 or visit 4Wheeling4Healing.com. For information on the expo, call 1-888-OHV-EXPO or visit www.TrailRex.com