Massimo DeSandoli and his family will be heading to Legoland near San Diego next month thanks to Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada and Progressive Auto Repair, which repaired and restored a 2009 Volkswagen Golf City to be raffled off July 9. Wolfgang Depner / News Staff

Greater Victoria youngster granted wish to visit Legoland

Massio DeSandoli received a diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) two years ago.

Massimo DeSandoli bounces across the front seats of the 2009 Volkswagen Golf City that will help him fulfill his wish of visiting Legoland.

At the age of six, he is still a few years away from getting behind the wheel for real. But that will neither stop him nor his older brother Luca, 8, from hamming it up, especially with several adults around.

Their two-year-old sister Floriana, meanwhile, sits quietly with them and is perhaps the most co-operative – dare we say adult – as photographers try to take picture of the trio inside the vehicle.

Massimo is enjoying himself immensely and it is easy to image his reaction when he and his family travel to Legoland thanks to Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada and Progressive Auto Repair, which restored the vehicle to be raffled off at Volksfest Victoria on Sunday, July 9 at Gyro Park.

Two years ago, Massimo received a diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes too many immature lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell.

Following his diagnosis in June 2015, Massimo underwent extensive chemotherapy that forced him to stay for several months in a Vancouver hospital.

His diagnosis is good, but only time will tell, said father Mario.“Fortunately, it is one of the more common types for kids,” he said. “It is one of the areas where (doctors) have had a lot of research over the last 20, 30 years. So the outcomes for kids are a lot better now, than they would have been a few years ago.”

These advances, he said, have allowed doctors to respond quickly and successfully.

“They are very good at getting rid of it initially,” he said. “The challenge comes after the treatment stops, whether it comes back or not. So for him, it is going to be a lifetime of monitoring.”

Massimo’s diagnosis came just weeks after the birth of his sister. “She was a new born when we went over [to Vancouver],” said Mario. “Going through this with a newborn baby was interesting.”

Massimo’s diagnosis has turned life upside down, said Massimo’s mother, Marianna Azouri. Her children, she said, had to grow up a little bit quicker than they should have, and their upcoming trip together will give them a chance to bond as a family.

“Everything has been a little bit chaotic,” she said. “So this is just us finally being able to be together as a family and just not worry,” she said. “You worry no matter what, but just to let them have some fun without an immediate hospital visit, to let them be themselves again, to let them be kids, that is huge.”

This time for Massimo, Luca and Floriana to be children again would not be possible without the Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada and Progressive Auto Repair, which purchased and repaired the Golf City.

Owner Troy Ostrinski said two reasons motivated his business’ participation for the second year in a row. “My sister’s daughter, my niece, applied to Children’s Wish,” he said. “So it was part of my family. And then Andy (Kallstrom of Children’s Wish) came to us two years ago. We just started talking and we decided it was just a really fun, good idea to support.”

The work was not overly difficult, he said. “It was basically buying the new parts, assembling them, getting some body work done, lining everything up and painting it,” said Ostrinski. He said he hopes the raffle will raise between $10,000 and $15,000 because of the car’s age.

Kallstrom said he that is a realistic goal. “One reasons why we choose that $10,000 amount with Children’s Wish, that is sort of our magic number,” he said. “The average cost of a wish is $10,000. That is one reason this year why we are so super excited.”

Massimo is certainly excited. In addition to Legoland, Massimo and his family will also visit San Diego Zoo, Sea World, Disneyland and Universal Studio. “We will be tired when we get back,” said Mario with a smile. But he is also very thankful for what lies ahead, especially for his son.

“He has earned it,” said Mario of Massimo. “He has had a tough go, a lot of days in the hospital, when a lot of kids elsewhere playing and doing their thing, like kids are supposed to do.”