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A Red Deer single mom with MS goes to Disney World with autistic son thanks to Make-A-Wish

Red Deer Advocate - 11/14/2018

A trip to Disney World may be ordinary for some, but for one Red Deer family it's brought back the spark into their lives.

Elizabeth Eckert said doctors confirmed she has multiple sclerosis in January. Given the single mom has a teenage son, Anakin Suerink, who has multiple health problems including epilepsy, scoliosis and autism, the news hit hard.

"I got diagnosed with MS and that was another really big slap to everyone in the family. How are we going to deal with this? What happens if mom can't get up and do the things she does every day? That's been a challenge for us to deal with," said Eckert Monday.

She said Suerink has had challenges since the day he was born. He was born at one pound, three ounces and has gone through 16 surgeries in his lifetime.

Things for the family only got worse since Eckert's diagnosis, but the trip has given new hope and overall sense of happiness to the family.

From Oct. 28 to Nov. 5, Eckert, her younger son JJ, Suerink and his support worker Veronica Zinck were in Disney World where Suerink also celebrated his 17th birthday.

The trip was the family's first vacation.

Eckert said they've always joked about going somewhere and the Disney World trip was a dream-come-true for the family.

"We always joked about if we won the lottery, this is what we would do (go to Disney World). We've always been a low-income family, single-mom family forever so it was something we never thought we would ever be able to do," said the 41-year-old.


Make-A-Wish grants Star Wars loving teen's wish

The Red Deer resident said 2018 has been a hard year for the family. But since they got back, the family "feels like we got this, and great things are coming," said the mom.

She said the people who work hard to raise money for charities such as Make-A-Wish Foundation probably don't realize the impact they're having on families such as hers.

"It absolutely warms my heart that there are organizations that fight for kids with severe disabilities, and the ends of the earth they go through to raise money to put smiles on these kids' faces."

The Red Deer mom said the trip was "magical" from so many ways right from the moment the family learned they were going, to preparation, the flight, the anticipation and it's something they will cherish for life.

Anakin who also has two tumors in the brain celebrated a birthday that made him feel like "king of the world," the mom said.

"He surprised me actually with how much he connected with emotions surrounding him – with autism – you never know," said Eckert.

"He actually cried but they were tears of happiness that this is happening."


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