Give Kids The World Village’s (GKTW) season-long series of holiday events will do more than provide the public with a rare glimpse inside a storybook Village bedecked with millions of lights. Festivities including a Holiday Soiree, Holiday VIP Tours and Holiday Dessert Parties will raise funds to make it possible for the 89-acre nonprofit resort in Central Florida near Orlando to continue fulfilling the wishes of critically ill children like Wesley Pecqueur.
Born prematurely at 25 weeks, Wesley spent the first 103 days of his life in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) where extensive blood work revealed that Wesley’s neutrophil counts were very low. On the day he was discharged, Wesley was referred to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for further testing. After months of blood draws and bone marrow biopsies, Wesley was diagnosed with severe congenital neutropenia, a very rare disease in which the body stops producing infection-fighting white blood cells; his immune system was broken.
“Wesley’s condition is extremely difficult to detect, with a 70% mortality rate in the first year of life without medical intervention. If not for the constant blood work in the NICU, doctors likely would have missed the irregular pattern in his blood counts. We could never have imagined that being born prematurely most likely saved his life,” said Wesley’s mom, Wendy Pecqueur.
Early detection enabled Wesley to begin injections with a medication typically administered to cancer patients following chemotherapy to build the immune system. After a year of treatment, however, the medication stopped working; a bone marrow transplant would be needed. Because his parents were not good enough matches, Wesley went into the bone marrow donor database. An exhaustive search led to a perfect match; but just weeks before the scheduled procedure, the donor backed out. By then, Wesley’s condition had worsened. Their luck changed when a donor from Germany came forward. In July 2019, one month shy of his second birthday, Wesley received a life-saving bone marrow transplant. After nine months of isolation due to the transplant, the family’s restrictions ended in February 2020 – when the pandemic sent them back into isolation for 14 more months. In January 2023, Wesley was well enough to take the trip of a lifetime with his family to Give Kids The World Village.
“These kids lose a big piece of their childhoods when they live in hospitals and doctors’ offices for portions of their lives; our stay at GKTW gave him a little of that back,” said Wendy Pecqueur. “From the accessible rides and unlimited ice cream to the care and compassion of staff and volunteers, the Village is truly a child’s paradise. We will cherish the memories forever.”
To make life-changing experiences like this possible, GKTW will host an elegant Holiday Soiree on Saturday, November 11th, featuring dinner, live entertainment and a charity auction, followed by a festive party; VIP Tours of the Village; and balcony Dessert Parties with stunning views of the lights. Visit www.gktw.org/holidays/