JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – On Dream Day, PRI Productions will transform into a dream-like playland for 40 local children facing life-threatening illnesses and their families. The sixth annual Dream Day event is in partnership with Dreams Come True of Jacksonville.
Dream Day will be held Saturday morning at PRI Productions on Kings Avenue. News4Jax will broadcast it live from 10-11 am.
Children who have life-threatening illnesses spend many hours, days and sometimes months at hospitals and clinics, but on Dream Day, these young warriors will spend hours filled with joy and wonder as guests of honor at one of the biggest extravaganzas in town.
The following three children will be part of the celebration. Here are their stories.
Cancer remains the leading cause of death by disease among children in America. Every day in the U.S., 43 children are diagnosed with cancer. The average age is 6. One out of 8 will not survive.
Eight-year-old Savannah Lahtinen is one of those children who had cancer. She won!
Savannah was diagnosed with a rare pediatric cancer, Ewing's sarcoma.
Savannah's Mother, Sarah Lahtinen, says the cancer all started with a small bump on the top of her foot.
"It was the last thing I would have ever thought. I never thought it would happen to us. We're pretty on top of watching things and monitoring, and it was the furthest thing from my mind. I never guessed a cancer diagnosis," said Lahtinen.
Savannah has had 14 rounds of chemotherapy in the hospital, 41 doses of radiation and eight doses of a study drug. She finished treatment in March. In the midst of all of that treatment, Dreams Come True jumped in to help ease the stress of the diagnosis.
"There is a lot of other parts to a cancer diagnosis that affects the whole family, and a lot of that is emotional and mental and for us Dreams Come True was that rock-solid emotional and mental support. They kept her being able to be a kid even going through that and I think that spirit that she had the whole time. She's been unstoppable and I know that a lot of that is because of all the things that have been provided to let her keep being a kid," explained Lahtinen.
Savannah will have her dream fulfilled this September by going on a Disney Cruise with her family.
Savannah is considered clean with no evidence of disease and will have to have follow up scans every three months for the next three years.
Caleb Musselwhite is 3 years old and has spent half his life battling Neuroblastoma.
Caleb had to undergo risky surgery to remove a tumor from his spinal column and lost all nerve function from the waist down.
Thanks to rehab and therapy -- those nerves started firing again.
Caleb's mother, Katie Musselwhite, tells us it's nothing short of a miracle.
"My husband and I give God all the credit for his amazing recovery. We were brought to such an incredible hospital and the team of physicians who operated and worked on Caleb. He was not expected to walk again, and we are so blessed to have him running around we've been chasing him around the park this morning. He is 100% all boy, and we're so grateful for everyday things because they were not guaranteed," said Musselwhite.
Caleb is now thriving, but he still has two tumors, one in his abdomen and one in his back.
Both are stable and monitored often.
"Any family with a child with a life-threatening illness can attest to this but you're very cautiously optimistic because with cancer and all these other illnesses, nothing is guaranteed, and he's followed closely by a lot of specialists, but you take it a little at a time, and right now, he's doing great," said Musselwhite.
Through Dreams Come True, Caleb and his family traveled to Orlando for his Disney Dream in February.
The Musselwhite family is beyond grateful for Dreams Come True helping them have the special memories their son deserves.
"When you are handed a life-threatening diagnosis for your child, so much is a sense of stolen just at that moment, and Dreams Come True comes along, They just add little pinches of that back to you. They help remind you that there's a lot of good mixed in and a lot of love in this community that helps gets people through these times," Musselwhite said.
Caleb has been a year and a half in remission.
Amelia Cregg is a beautiful, smiley 6-year-old.
You wouldn't know by looking at her, but she battles health issues every day.
Amelia's mother, April Cregg, opened up about their family life since Amelia was diagnosed with Prader-Willi syndrome.
"When a child has medical needs like Amelia's, it takes a toll on the parents, and me being a single parent, I think it's a little extra toll," said Cregg.
Cregg said it's been overwhelming at times, but her daughter always impresses her doctors and keeps a good attitude.
Prader-Willi syndrome affects the portion of the brain that controls hunger as well as many of the body's hormones.
Amelia was also diagnosed with Scoliosis at the age of 2.
She sees an orthopedic doctor every four to six months while awaiting surgery for growing rods. Amelia's doctor connected her to Dreams Come True.
"I had never heard of Dreams Come True, and they are an amazing organization because the joy that they bring into the lives of the families that they are helping is immeasurable. It's priceless," said Cregg.
Amelia and her family went to Orlando in December 2018 through Dreams Come True.
They visited all the theme parks and stayed in a magical village.
"Through all of the challenges that we face, sometimes we can forget to have fun, and it can be overwhelming, so I remember when I first called, and I'm so excited because I knew that this would be something great for Amelia. To have those moments where she can to shine and be loved and embrace and nobody's really looking at her, are poking her, prodding her, because that's our lives, a lot of poking and prodding, researching," said Cregg.
More than 4,000 dreams have been fulfilled by Dreams Come True, including Amelia's.