The gymnasium at Mountain Vista High School in Highlands Ranch was transformed into a spaceship landing on Mars last week as part of an effort to make one 9-year-old’s wish come true.
Through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Mountain Vista students participated in the annual Make-A-Wish week, when they help raise funds for the national organization and do something special for children.
On Feb. 11, the Mountain Vista students went all out for Walter, a local 9-year-old with cystic fibrosis. Sarah Grosh, the Colorado director of community development for Make-A-Wish, said Walter’s wish was to have a space experience.
Since they could not actually send Walter to space, Grosh said Mountain Vista students came together to do the next best thing.
With a space suit and crew, Walter boarded a homemade spaceship, gave commands and landed on Mars, where he explored the planet, encountered aliens, and making peace by giving them Reese’s Pieces.
Before leaving the planet, Walter also led the crew in posting the “be a good person,” flag. All of this was done in a gymnasium full of 2,000 screaming students cheering Walter on.
Following the trip to Mars, Walter told the audience that space travel is important for astronomers to continue discovering life on other planets and to see what can help here on Earth.
After the simulated space trip, the surprises for Walter continued. Walter was surprised to see real-life astronaut Ron Garan.
Garan applauded the turnout and experience the Mountain Vista students created.
“I have done amazing things and been to incredible places,” he said. “This is one of the most impressive. Thank you all for what you’re doing and what you will do to make life here as beautiful as it is from space.”
Garan gave Walter a patch that he flew to the International Space Station, estimating it traveled more than 65 million miles away.
In applauding Mountain Vista efforts, Grosh said this is the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s 10th year working with the high school.
“Every year I struggle with what to say,” she said. “What has happened here today is incredible. Wish week is an amazing program. No one does wish week like Mountain Vista. You gave the generosity of your time and talent. You care so incredibly much.”
In fundraising, Grosh said Mountain Vista students have raised more than $1 million for the foundation over the years.
As the assembly came to an end, when asked, Walter said, “It was a great experience and something very intense.”