Four-year-old Iowa cancer patient receives pink boat from Make-a-Wish

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As her mother knelt down and explained that the candy pink fishing boat in the parking lot was for her, the look on little Hallie Koenigs’ face changed from confusion to excitement.

She started jumping up and down, only stopping to run towards her new boat. Family and volunteers cheered as she inspected the bright pink vinyl wrapper, emblazoned with the boat’s name, “Hallie’s Wish.”

“I think when she started running, it was like she loved everything and let all her guards down,” Hallie’s mother Kacie Koenigs said. “She knew it was for her and about her.”

At a surprise event Friday with family and community volunteers, Hallie — a 4-year-old cancer patient from Riceville — received the boat outside the Make-A-Wish Iowa office in Urbandale.

Hallie loves to fish and goes on fishing trips every August with her siblings and parents, Allen and Kacie Koenigs.

“Hallie went through a lot of her treatment during COVID. Family couldn’t be there, it was a lot of one-on-one time with mom and Hallie,” Allen Koenigs said. “So it (the boat) allows us to spend more family time together and really have some great days with her while we can.”

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The project came about with the help of many community members, including a volunteer who traveled to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to pick up the boat, Vision Signs, who provided the custom pink vinyl, and Scheels , who provided Hallie with all the fishing gear. she would need.

“It means more than we could even describe,” Kacie Koenigs said. “And we’ll be forever grateful to everyone who was instrumental in getting the boat, getting the vinyl wrap set up, getting it exactly the way she wanted it.”

It was a monumental occasion for the 4-year-old, who has spent most of her life in and out of hospitals.

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Kacie Koenigs of Riceville lifts her 4-year-old daughter, Hallie, into Hallie's new pink fishing boat Friday, July 22, 2022, at the Make-A-Wish office in Urbandale.

The great medical journey of a little girl

In June 2019, just before Hallie’s first birthday, her parents noticed a large lump in her lower back. A series of doctors and tests later, she was diagnosed with alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, an aggressive cancer that affects soft tissues like muscle.

Hallie spent a year in and out of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, receiving chemotherapy, platelet transfusions and CT scans.

The treatment seemed to work. However, during a regular scan in April 2021, her parents’ worst fears came true. The doctors had discovered a new tumor.

“She had six months of maintenance, and then three months into her maintenance, she relapsed again,” Kacie Koenigs said.

He was back in the hospital for more chemotherapy, radiation and transfusions. Hallie completed her radiotherapy in October 2021 and had her last first-line chemotherapy treatment in February 2022.

After Hallie’s relapse, and between numerous doctor’s appointments and treatments, the Koenigs reached out to Make-A-Wish Iowa, who worked with the family to surprise Hallie with the perfect wish.

“We’ve been working on this for a good six months,” Allen Koenigs said. “We are very excited to see this all fall into place.”

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In total, the 4-year-old girl received 42 cycles of first-line chemotherapy, her mother said. Hallie was able to start daily oral chemo again, and her most recent scans show the drug worked.

“It’s the most normal thing we’ve seen and the best thing she’s seen, done and felt in a long time,” Kacie Koenigs said.

Standing in her new pink fishing boat, Hallie Koenigs, 4, of Riceville, tries on a pink fishing hat Friday, July 22, 2022, at the Make-A-Wish office in Urbandale.

Make-A-Wish Iowa brings hope to families

Hallie is one of approximately 150 children who will have a wish granted by Make-A-Wish Iowa this year, said Lexi Konig, spokesperson for Make-A-Wish Iowa.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation was established in 1980 with the guiding principle that “one wish experience can be a game-changer for a child with a life-threatening illness,” according to its website.

The Iowa Chapter of Make-A-Wish celebrated its 4,000th wish granted in March 2020. Patients are usually referred to Make-A-Wish Iowa through a member of their medical team, such as a physician, a nurse or social worker, Konig said.

“Once he gets to our office, once those approvals are done, we’ll meet with the family and our volunteers and kind of chat about his (child’s) favorite things and any ideas that she would have. , kind of start this brainstorming process,” Konig said. “Once that is determined, our team here at Urbandale works diligently to make that happen.”

Standing in her new pink fishing boat, Hallie Koenigs, 4, of Riceville, tries on a pink fishing hat Friday, July 22, 2022, at the Make-A-Wish office in Urbandale.

Make-A-Wish is able to grant wishes thanks to the generosity of volunteers, community partners and donors. Hallie’s wish was funded by a local family, who were present when she received her new pink boat.

“They attended our Des Moines gala in May and raised their paddle to fund a full wish, so that’s the wish we paired them with,” Konig said.

Volunteers and community partners are what make Make-A-Wish’s work possible, Konig said. Find volunteer opportunities at wish.org/iowa/volunteer.

Grace Altenhofen is an editor for the Des Moines Register. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @gracealtenhofen.

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