New Port Richey Campus & Make-A-Wish Turn Boy's Dream into Reality

boy with drawing tablet

An 11-year-old New Port Richey, Fla., boy with huge design aspirations came gliding through the campus doors in his wheelchair in early April to discover he was about to get the deal of a lifetime.

This 11-year-old is not just another boy from Pasco County. Joey was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy (MD), a genetic disease that weakens the muscles used to help a person move. He is an avid computer and video gamer who enjoys exploring new games and playing them with friends. He wants to be a video game creator when he grows up, and officials at Rasmussen College’s New Port Richey campus helped turn his dream into a reality.

Rasmussen College partnered with Make-A-Wish Central & Northern Florida to provide Joey with a digital drawing tablet and a one-year membership to Adobe Creative Cloud.

“This was one of the few opportunities where we were able to leverage our industry experience and our assets … to fulfill the wish of someone that really deserved to have a creative outlet,” said Jennifer Ayotte, Fort Myers School of Design dean.

The Adobe membership, worth around $600, will give Joey access to Adobe’s suites of software for graphic design, video editing, web development applications and cloud services. In addition to the drawing tablet and Adobe software, Make-A-Wish granted Joey’s wish to have a custom Alienware Gaming Computer—a professional grade device specifically created for gaming.

Bill Sattlemeyer, state program coordinator for the School of Technology and School of Design, as well as self-styled “guru of all things gaming,” was also part of Joey’s day. He brought in many different games that were ready to be installed and played on Joey’s computer, as well as a bunch of software that professionals use to create games.

group of college employees

“We created an Adobe account for him and gave him some tutorial videos so he could take them and learn on his own pace,” Ayotte said.

The tablet and membership were great gifts for an aspiring gamer, but connecting with Joey was the best part for Sattlemeyer and Ayotte.

After being told Joey was a bit shy, Sattlemeyer and Ayotte were prepared to sit back, introduce themselves and be on-call for questions. But, according to Ayotte, the minute Joey came into the classroom, he began to shine.

“He was immediately drawn to everything in the room,” Ayotte said. “He was able to just forget about everything and let his guard down. He was able to just be a child with sheer excitement that he was getting something really special.”

Ayotte and Sattlemeyer walked Joey through the Adobe software and talked with him one-on-one about their shared passion for design and games.

The goose bumps and happy tears didn’t end there.

The second best part of the day was seeing the family’s reaction to their interaction with Joey, Ayotte said.

“The family was coming up to us and telling us how impactful this was, and some were just moved to tears,” she added. “They were just grateful we made this such a special experience for someone we didn’t know just because we wanted to.”

boy working with computer

Sattlemeyer was clearly moved by the experience too. He gave Joey his contact information and offered to help with the games or tablet at Joey’s convenience.

“This event truly allowed us to make a difference with someone that had nothing to do with the classroom or students, but someone that would benefit from our expertise and someone we may never have met otherwise,” Ayotte said.

“Wishes that inspire community support like Joey’s are important to us at Make-A-Wish,” said Lisa Andrews, regional director for Make-A-Wish Central & Northern Florida. “Rasmussen College’s wish enhancement will bring joy to Joey’s family and also illustrate the transformational power a wish can have to everyone who is involved.”

Make-A-Wish Central & Northern Florida grant over 300 wishes per year, and the average cost of a wish is $7,000. The next big event is the Walk for Wishes in May.

About the author

Jennifer Pfeffer

Jennifer is a Content Marketing Specialist at Collegis Education who researches and writes articles on behalf of Rasmussen University. She is passionate about learning and higher education and enjoys writing engaging content to help current and future students on their path to a rewarding education.

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