A Delicious Wish Come True
For one day Justin could forget the 10 hours of dialysis he endures each day. Instead, the 8-year-old, who lives in El Dorado County with his parents and sister, was recently given the opportunity through the regional chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation to be chef for a day, proudly serving his food to patrons inside a packed Aji Japanese Bistro in El Dorado Hills Town Center.
Justin was born with only one, partially functioning kidney. He has endured one kidney transplant and is currently awaiting another. Because of his condition, Justin has suffered severe complications and he alternates between UC Davis Medical Center and staying at home.
“Once Justin was offered a wish, he quickly began thinking of what he wanted his ultimate wish to be,” Vice President of Communications and Outreach for Make-A-Wish of Northeastern and Central California and northern Nevada Michele Sanders told Village Life.
Though there are 60 Make-A-Wish chapters nationally, Justin came to the Wishing Place in Sacramento — one of only five in the world. There he went through each category — I wish to meet, go, be or have. As he narrowed down his wishes, his top three were to get a puppy, travel to Hawaii or be a chef.
“After reviewing his ideas, Justin knew that his most heartfelt wish would be to be a chef,” Sanders continued. “He has always loved cooking with his family and finds inspiration through his dad, who is a sous chef himself … The granting of Justin’s wish would not only allow him to bond with his dad over their shared love for culinary art, but also allow him to channel his creativity into something that could blossom into a lifelong passion for him.”
Sanders said it didn’t take long for the work behind the scenes to begin and to determine where Justin could have his dream fulfilled. “We (Make-A-Wish) have worked closely with Aji (Japanese Bistro) owner Russell Okubo and manager Steven DaCong, as (Steven) is a wish dad and his daughter Sammie actually had a wish in 2013 to go to Disney World,” Sanders explained. “Sammie is one of our ambassadors and actually did a fundraiser at Aji and raised enough money to grant another wish.”
Sanders said that DaCong and Okubo went even further with Justin’s wish. They flew renowned master chef Roberto Gerometto from Los Angeles to El Dorado Hills to cook with Justin on the special day last month.
Justin created the menu, which included the choice of three entrees: spaghetti and polpette, chicken alfredo or broccoli beef. Dessert was a rice krispie roll consisting of fresh berries, banana and house pastry cream with chocolate and creme anglaise. He beamed as he served a full restaurant, which included two dozen family members, Make-A-Wish staff and patrons who were in the restaurant at the time.
“It was amazing,” Sanders said of the experience. “We love partnering with the community to make wishes happen and are always amazed at the lengths people will go to for a child with a critical illness.”
For more information about the regional Make-A-Wish chapter visit necannv.wish.org.