By Ed Runyan
The Metcalf family of Canton, including their 4-year-old son Zachary, started a free six-day Florida vacation today, thanks to Allegiant Air and Make-A-Wish.
A limousine brought the Metcalf family to the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, where its six members boarded an Allegiant flight bound for St. Petersburg/Clearwater International Airport.
Their final destination is a hotel in Sarasota, Fla., but first, they were going to be taken to Ellenton, Fla., where they were going to visit with Zachary’s paternal grandparents.
“His grandparents don’t get to see him, so that will give him and all of us time to spend with them,” said Jessie Metcalf, Zachary’s mother.
In addition to Zachary, the Metcalf family includes Nicholas, 11; Robert Jr., 8; and Isabella, 6.
Because of Zachary’s medical issues, he isn’t able to speak, so when Make-A-Wish asked what his wish would be, his parents told them, “Zachary loves to be around family, to be held and swim,” Jessie Metcalf said. “The hotel has a nice pool.”
This trip will involve a lot of family time and a lot of swimming in the pool, she said.
The family will spend time at the beach, and the hotel staff is throwing Zachary a pool party, she said. His medical issues will prevent him from visiting any theme parks, she said.
Allegiant Air, which flies from Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport to three Florida leisure destinations and Myrtle Beach, S.C., began its relationship with Make-A-Wish earlier this year and has fulfilled the wishes of 168 children.
The airline uses a special aircraft with Make-A-Wish branding on it to provide the flights. This is the first time Allegiant has provided one of its Make-A-Wish flights at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.
Make-A-Wish grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions. It is one of the leading children’s charities, granting more than 226,000 wishes since 1980.
“This year has been tough for us,” Jessie Metcalf said. “Zachary spent 46 days in the hospital early in the year, and we’ve spent a lot of time at doctors’ offices and hospitals in Canton and Akron.”
One of the nice things about this trip is that the Metcalf family didn’t have to worry about all of the details.
“It takes a lot of planning to travel with all of this medical equipment,” Jessie Metcalf said. “Make-A-Wish handled all of that for us.”
For Zachary’s father, Robert Metcalf, being able to take his family to Florida to enjoy time together and with his parents means a lot.
“It means everything,” he said. “We don’t know how much time we have with him,” he said of Zachary.