Owen Hyatt has always loved the water.
His mom Dawn Hyatt said its been true of her son from the time he was a month old, relaxing in his first tub bath. And so, when she was applying for Owen to receive a wish from Make-a-Wish Foundation, a pool seemed the obvious choice.
He just squeals with excitement in the pool. This wish is going to be fantastic, said Hyatt. I knew going on a trip for him is nothing; he wouldnt get anything out of it. Having a pool for him, its family time, its strengthening for him and hes just the happiest in the pool.
Owen, who will turn five in a couple of weeks, was born prematurely with a rare genetic disorder. He is one of only about four children in the world who have this particular genetic disorder. Owen is also blind, nonverbal and uses a wheelchair.
Susan Lott, ambassador for Make-a-Wish Niagara, said for children like Owen, these wishes make a lasting impact.
Its almost like, depending on the wish, they have that time period where theyre just a normal kid. Theyre not having to go to the doctors all the time. Theyre not having people talking to them about it all the time, she said. In Owens case, having the pool, this is going to be his freedom in that pool.
Lott said thats most important for Make-a-Wish Foundation and its volunteers: that the wish is something meaningful for the child.
We like to know the why behind (the wish); its so important, she said. You want to make sure its what the child wants. You want it to be a very special thing for the child.
And for Owen, thats a swimming pool.
Hyatt said her family finds water wherever they go. They took their trailer out three times over the summer for camping and made sure there was a nearby lake for Owen. He takes private swimming lessons, and Hyatts sister has a backyard pool the family uses as often as possible.
She said Owen even loves the rain.
But having his own pool in the backyard? Hyatt said it will be life-changing for Owen.
I just think hes going to have so much more freedom in his life, she said.
Having it right in my backyard, we can go swimming any day. He would be in the water from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. if he could.
The pool is an 18-foot round, heated above-ground pool that Hyatt said will be perfect in the backyard of their Niagara Falls home.
Eventually my husband will make a deck and itll be like a beautiful oasis for Owen, she said. Were actually going to make a sign; its going to be Camp O-Bear because everyone calls him O-Bear.
The original plan was for the Hyatts pool to be installed over the May long weekend, but it was delayed by COVID-19 and then again when the Hyatts decided to move into a home that was better suited for their family long term.
Lott said a number of wishes, specifically travel ones, are on hold because of the pandemic, and others were delayed in the spring when the lockdown began. She said shes excited to see them come to fruition, especially the pool, which is the first one being put in by Make-a-Wish in Niagara.
Hyatt said her son deserves the fun hell have in the pool.
He is such a joy to have. He is the happiest little boy, she said. Owen has suffered and struggled so much in his whole life and ... he deserves everything. He deserves his wish.
The Make-a-Wish reveal happened Sept. 10 at the Hyatts home. There were a few family members present to celebrate the moment as well as some special touches for Owens eight-year-old sister Hailey.
Lott said Boston Pizza donated pizza for Hailey, who decorated a special sign for the reveal.
Hailey, who finds it easy and fun being Owens big sister, said this is special for him because he loves to swim and thats really the thing he loves to do most.
Lott said this is her favourite part: meeting the families and getting to know the kids. She tries not to cry when the wish is revealed, but isnt often successful.
Its just so awesome, she said.
Hyatt said shes proud of her son and glad she can give him this pool.
(Owens) taught me so many things. I am a changed mother, Im a changed person. Hes changed me in so many ways.
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