Carnforth kidney transplant boy granted wish to meet RAF pilot

A nine-year-old boy has quizzed the Red Arrows and watched an air show after being granted his wish to meet an RAF pilot by the children’s charity Make-A-Wish UK.

Wednesday, 30th September 2020, 11:47 am
Updated Wednesday, 30th September 2020, 11:50 am
John Stephenson and family with the RAF crew he met as part of his Make-A-Wish treat.

John Stephenson, from Carnforth, was born with kidney problems and had a successful kidney transplant from his mum Marie when he was just three.

Now, John is well and has check-ups every 12 weeks. A resourceful character, who has built his own digger during lockdown, John loves figuring out how things work and how they are built.

While his older sister Alexis is a thrill-seeker who loves rides and flights, John loves go-karting and is more interested in how vehicles are constructed.

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When it came to choosing his wish, John wondered if he could have his own petrol-powered go kart. But he also loves music and drumming, so he was also keen to meet the artist Stormzy.

However, he decided on an inspirational experience and wished to meet an RAF pilot so he could ask them questions and maybe even see a military jet up close.

John’s wishgranter Hollie made some enquiries and went one step further – arranging for him to meet a team from the Red Arrows at RAF Scampton.

John’s family drove all the way to the air base in Lincoln just before Lancashire went into localised lockdown, and stayed overnight.

The next morning, they were escorted to Red Arrows headquarters to watch an air display. When the pilots had landed and had a debrief, John and his sister Lexi got to quiz them and the ‘Blues’ engineers about their roles in flying and maintaining Hawk fast-jets. He had a socially distanced photo taken with the pilots; had an engineering tour and then got to look through the pilots’ flying equipment.

Afterwards, Marie said: “We told John that we were going to see an air show but didn’t tell him that it was the Red Arrows so that was a surprise. We were very honoured to be there and were amazed at how close the planes got to each other. They told him how to find videos of some of the best ‘epic crashes’ that pilots had survived on the internet and sent him away with photos and RAF goodies.

“John was freaked out, in a good way, when so many people said 'good morning John' he said, ‘how do they know my name?’ He was more interested in how the jet was made rather than in going up in it.

Marie continued: “This has opened his horizons right up...about what’s out there for him career-wise and the services. He found out he can join up despite having a kidney transplant if he goes into engineering.

“It’s also boosted his confidence because psychologically he’s been quite down at times. He’s ended up with four stickers a day at school this week because the wish has really lifted his self-esteem.

“For me, as his mum, it’s just redressed the balance to see him so happy. After losing so much time at home growing up and then going through his illness, to have really big joyous days has balanced his life like this wonderful big light.”

Now John’s sister Lexi wants to be a pilot too – and his dad Andrew, a former Royal Marine and fireman, enjoyed the day just as much too!

Every day, the lives of 10 families in the UK are changed forever when their child is diagnosed with a serious illness.

Medical appointments become the utmost priority with the innocence of childhood taking a backseat and worry becoming paramount.

A wish helps to restore that childhood and puts worry on the backseat. To find out more about how wishes can help, visit make-a-wish.org.uk or follow the charity on social media @makeawishuk