Waukegan firemen light up child’s life through Make-A-Wish Foundation
By Long Hwa-shu For Sun-Times Media September 1, 2013 10:35AM
Heidi and her dad Rene Castillo watch as the new swimming pool is being filled by the Waukegan fire department. | TINA JOHANSSON~FOR SUN-TIMES MEDIA
Updated: November 1, 2013 2:30AM
Little Heidi, looking fragile and weak, smiled happily as Waukegan firemen pumped water into a new swimming pool in her backyard on Saturday.
Heidi, 4, battling leukemia and being treated at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin near Milwaukee, has always wanted to have her own swimming pool.
“She loves to swim,” said her father Rene Castillo, a landscaper, while holding her in one arm.
Her wishes became known to Make-A-Wish Foundation in Chicago, whose mission is to fulfill the wishes of children fighting a life-threatening medical condition. An above-ground swimming pool was soon installed by the foundation in the backyard of the Castillo residence at 2212 Edgewood Road in Waukegan. It was a special gift to her by the foundation.
Saturday morning, six men from the Waukegan Fire Department arrived in a fire engine and a rescue vehicle. After flushing a nearby hydrant to get rid of stagnant water, they connected about 200 feet of a 3-inch hose to the hydrant and then started pumping water into the pool that’s about 18 feet in diameter.
In about 15 minutes, the pool was filled with 5,000 gallons of fresh water — a gift from the city.
“We feel honored to help fulfill the wish of Heidi,” Battalion “A” Chief Dave Roberts said. “We’re happy to do this. It’s our duty to help people.
“I can’t imagine what the family has to go through.”
Roberts and his men pointed out that if someone had to use a garden hose to fill the pool, it would take two days.
Castillo and his wife Maria, standing in the backyard, muddy from the freshly dug foundation for the pool and the rain the day before, were thankful.
“She can’t wait to swim in the pool, but the water is too cold,” said the father, pointing out that Heidi was diagnosed with leukemia two years ago and has been receiving treatment at the hospital.
“She feels good,” he said, looking at her tenderly. The couple also has a 2-year-old son Brian.
Make-A-Wish Foundation was to hold a party Sunday afternoon at their home celebrating the event. About 50 people were expected, according to the Castillos.