Young Jedi Asher Bourquin pays it forward with some help from his friends
In the face of adversity, the human spirit has an uncanny ability to shine its brightest. Kathryn Senor Elementary student Asher Bourquin is a remarkable young man who, at just one-year-old, embarked on a journey that would test his resilience. Six years later, he finds himself in the position to give back, with a little help from his Garfield Re-2 family.
The Bourquin family's world was turned upside down a week after Asher's first birthday when he was diagnosed with an exceptionally rare and cancerous brain tumor known as Atypical Rhabdoid Tumor (ATRT). The road ahead was filled with medical procedures. In that challenging year, Asher underwent three brain surgeries and faced the relentless battle of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, each step requiring courage from this young warrior. His journey was not one traveled alone; it was a collective effort by his family, friends, and an entire medical team.
One of the brightest moments in Asher's battle was his Make-A-Wish trip as a six-year-old, a dream come true for a young Jedi in the making. Asher took flight aboard the iconic Millennium Falcon, met the formidable Darth Vader, and proudly showed Kylo Ren his very own lightsaber, crafted at Disney World’s Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge.
"Keep training, Young Jedi," Ren encouraged.
The Make-a-Wish experience was pivotal for Asher and his family.
“It was just really special to get to do something together as a family,” said Asher’s mother Alison. “When you go through treatment, you don't know what tomorrow looks like. There's a lot of unknowns and so it makes you grateful for just the really small things. This trip was really a gift to be together and get to celebrate how far we've come and celebrate survivorship.”
Recently, Asher and his family participated in “Wish Week” at Coal Ridge High School. While Make-a-Wish has been organizing similar events in the Denver Metro area for years, this marked a special moment for the Western Slope community.
“Schools have been remarkably successful at fundraising to support future Make-a-Wish trips for children. However, there hasn't been much representation on the Western slope,” explained Make-a-Wish volunteer Jana Boies. Grand Valley High School is set to host a Wish Week in February in support of local students as well.
The Coal Ridge student council began planning the week-long fundraising event in October to support the organization that provided Asher and his family with so much joy. They rallied students from Kathryn Senor Elementary, Cactus Valley Elementary, and Riverside Middle School as well, and in the end, raised $10,000 for the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
“This was a full week, and we've had some very generous large donations,” said Tabitha Fish, one of Coal Ridge High School Student Council Advisors. In addition to smaller fundraisers such as hat-day at schools, classroom competitions, basketball game ticket sales, and a macaroni-and-cheese fundraiser dinner, Tabitha added that one family donated $1,500 while Avalanche Excavating donated just over $2,600 to the cause.
Though the Titans did not know who Asher was prior to the event, he has become a familiar face since.
“Every announcement we made, we talked about him and had his profile so that kids could get to know him. And all of our kids were very excited to find out that he was coming (to Coal Ridge) because they wanted to see him and meet him.”
Asher received near-Jedi status, being led into the all-Coal Ridge assembly by the band playing the Imperial March. He then got to participate in a variety of activities made possible by students hitting their Make-a-Wish fundraising targets including Lego judging, whipped-cream pies for the Coal Ridge Girls Basketball Team, silly stringing the Coal Ridge Boys Basketball team, teacher dance-offs, sliming teacher Christian Batson, and dousing Athletic Director Ben Kirk with a cooler of ice water - all with his second-grade classmates in the audience and participating as well.
“I think it shows how our small little community really comes together,” added Alison. “I'm glad that we get to pay it forward for all of the kindness that we experienced when Asher was going through treatment and with the opportunity to go on a wish and then to showcase his story to help raise money so that more kids can go on more wishes.”
In the darkness, a young Jedi found his light, and in Asher Bourquin, we find a young man whose story inspires us to find joy in the small moments along the journey of life.