Seven-year-old Max Vertin always wanted to fly like Iron Man. When Make-A-Wish Colorado finally helped him realize that dream, the experience left the boy from Hastings, Neb., feeling like someone else entirely.
“It was more like Superman,” he said, adding quickly, “I like Superman, too.”
Vertin and two of his brothers have Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a rare disease that causes muscles to slowly deteriorate.
In a burgundy Iron Man-style flight suit sewn by staff members at Sky Venture, Max, his sister, two brothers and father flew April 15 in the enclosed vertical wind tunnel of the Lone Tree business. From just outside the Plexiglas enclosure, his mother and youngest brother watched.
Surrounded by cameras and far from home, Max stayed largely silent during his Sky Venture visit. But his father Jason said that didn’t last long.
“He thoroughly enjoyed it,” he said. “It made his day.”
Though three of the boys suffer from the same condition, the Vertins’ recent application to Make-A-Wish Nebraska was for Max only.
“Because he’s older, he’s going to lose his ability to walk and be as mobile as he is at this point; we thought it was a good age to take advantage of it,” Jason said.
Make-A-Wish ensured all seven family members got to take the trip to Colorado.
“It was the first time our family’s ever taken a true family vacation,” Jason said. “We’ve either been going to doctors’ appointments or sporting events for my (13-year-old) daughter. I couldn’t have dreamt how much fun we would have.”
Jason, who works as a salesman for a custom truck and trailer company, said he and his wife, Betty, don’t know what the future holds for their three boys.
“There’s not a timeline,” he said. “Muscular dystrophy does not have a cure. It is the most deadly genetic disease out there. Your focus as a parent is to keep them strong.
“My wife and I are devout Catholics. We are very understanding that this is the cross we’re going to bear. But not so much us but (the children). We’re part of that and couldn’t imagine life without any one of them.
“The thing about diseases is, it doesn’t matter if it’s cancer or muscular dystrophy. It makes you realize the stark realization of life. Sometimes we get caught up in the stuff that doesn’t matter. You realize that each day is a blessing.”
Among those days, April 15 will stand out in the family’s memory, he said.
“Hats off to Make-A-Wish and Sky Venture for the whole thing,” Jason said. “It wasn’t just a wish for Max; it was truly a treat for everybody.”