After a diagnosis of brain cancer last year, treatments and healing time, Aiden Fullenwider is feeling well enough to go to the 2024 Super Bowl and see his favorite team, the Chiefs, play! Many prayers have been answered, and he has even gotten back into playing football, as well as making the honor roll at Hancock County Middle School.
Aiden turned 13 on January 21st, and found out on that day that he’s getting the wish he asked for from Make-A -Wish. He and his parents, Kaylie and Casey Fullenwider, and his 2 younger siblings, Liam (11) and Lynlee (6), are all so excited to go on this trip together, and are scheduled to leave on Wednesday, February 7th.
“Make-A-Wish America has a chapter at our hospital that takes care of Aiden in Cincinatti Children’s,” Kaylie said. “Our social worker there offered Make-A-Wish to us as a way to kind of just lift spirits during a hard time. Any kid that has a life threatening disease gets to make a wish. We kept telling them no because Aiden just felt like other kids deserved it more than him.
Every time we went to an appointment, they kept offering it and he just kept saying no. In the fall, we decided it was time. The Make-A-Wish Chapter for Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky reached out to me and asked if we’d like to start the process. Aiden got to have a video conference with a volunteer and they talked about his wishes.
She was good at convincing him that he deserved a wish because he’s gone through a lot. It’s a lot on a kid to have cancer. We got our diagnosis after his biopsy last year. April of 2022 is when we really started our journey but his official diagnosis wasn’t until February of 2023. We completed radiation and did a round of chemo after that.”
Aiden’s first wish was to go to the Super Bowl. They ask you to make 3 wishes – two of them trips and one can be a tangible item. Originally, Kaylie said they were notified that it wouldn’t happen because the Super Bowl was booked up until 2026.
“Then, suddenly there was an opening,” she said. “The lady that does the local chapter reached out to Casey and I and said if we got all of the paperwork in that day that he could get in to the Super Bowl. The event is for your whole family. Two of us get to go to the game but all 5 us will actually get to go.”
“One of my birthday presents,” Aiden said, “they first gave me a signed Patrick Mahomes jersey (quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs) and I thought that would be it because those things cost a bunch. And then they pulled out this black box. I really didn’t know what was in it but when I opened it I saw Super Bowl tickets. I was so flabbergasted. It was one of the happiest moments I’ve ever had in my life.”
“Fanatics is one of the sponsors for Make-A-Wish Super Bowl experience,” Kaylie said. “They emailed me and said they were going to mail these boxes to our house that would pop open. They were supposed to mail it at the beginning of January. It just so happened that they arrived on his birthday weekend! The pieces just fell into place to make it work.”
“With the Chiefs making it to the Super Bowl,” Casey said, “everything just seemed like it’s working out.”
“When he made the wish she said, ‘What are you going to do if the Chiefs don’t make it?’ And Aiden said, ‘I don’t care who’s in the Super Bowl. I just want to go.’ As it’s gotten closer, the Chiefs made it – it’s amazing,” Kaylie added.
Make-A-Wish is providing all of their transportation, hotel and food. The 5 of them will be flying out of Louisville, and will be staying at MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Aiden and his dad will be going to the NFL Honors Award Show on Thursday, February 8th. All of the Make-A-Wish children and one parent each will walk the red carpet, and Ralph Lauren sponsored a suit for Aiden to wear for the ceremony.
“We have a full itinerary,” Kaylie said. “They preloaded a card for us for food for each day and provided a preloaded card for transportation as well. For the NFL Honors Night and the Super Bowl night, they set up family activities for the family members that don’t get to go. We’ll come back Monday, February 12th.”
On Friday they’ll all get to tour Allegiant Stadium and the locker rooms. They have their fingers crossed to meet a few players, they said. Before the game on Sunday, they also get to go to the Fanatics Apparel Store and shop for gear. Aiden will be dressed head to toe to support the Chiefs! Only 2 of them get to go to the big game, so the rest of the family will be enjoying a watch party. Aiden is going to Super Bowl 58 with his mom.
“I’ve never been a big sports person,” Casey said. “I watch the games but every week, especially this past year when Aiden was in radiation, Kaylie and Aiden had to live in Cincinnati for 6 weeks and they got to the point where every weekend they would watch the games together. I thought it was only fitting that they get to go watch the game.”
“I told Aiden our seats are pretty far up in the stadium and he said he didn’t care,” Kaylie said. “He’s just excited to go. They’re in the middle upper section. It’s an indoor stadium. We’re excited about that because he’s kind of struggled with his temperature since his treatment. We were worried about it being cold. He’s gotten better. It’s down, so we’re good.”
Aiden told about the day when he first found out that something was going on with his health. “It was actually just a normal eye exam in Owensboro,” he said. “I had optic swelling. They told me to get an MRI in Owensboro. When they did the MRI it showed brain swelling on the left temporal lobe. They sent me to the hospital. I had just turned 12, and we found out in April.”
Kaylie explained how the treatments went, “The sessions weren’t long. We did it six weeks in a row – 30 treatments. He had to lay there for 10 minutes with his face strapped in. He struggled right afterwards. During it, he lost all of his hair. It made him very sick; He lost a lot of weight. We lived in Cincinnati but came home on weekends.” The Clarion previously wrote about Aiden’s journey in May of 2023. Aiden Fullenwider
“He’s just now getting back to kind of his normal self, physically,” Casey said. “He went from about 150 pounds to 120. He’s finally gained it back.”
“He looks really good,” Kaylie said with a sigh of relief. “He was able to play football this fall, which was a miracle because we were told no football. He had a biopsy and they thought football was too dangerous. But then he got the all clear to play. We were happy about that.”
“I play right guard on the offense,” Aiden said. “We (HCMS) won four of five games.” His parents said he played really well and wants to play in high school if he’s able.
When asked how he feels today, Aiden said he feels “great”. When asked why he’s a Chiefs fan he said, “I just love how they play. They’re so creative with plays. They have such a unique quarterback. Usually, a quarterback will stay in the pocket and throw but he’ll run, he’ll side arm, he’ll dive…Patrick Mahomes will do all the stuff he needs to do to win the game. It’s just very cool to watch a player like that.
I really like the running back, Isiah Pacheco. He just runs like a tank. He’s fast; You can’t tackle him. I know everybody says it’s Taylor Swift now but I do really like Travis Kelce. Even though he has done worse this season I still think he’s one of the best tight ends in the whole league.”
Aiden says he thinks the Kansas City Chiefs will beat the San Francisco 49ers. When asked what he thinks the biggest problem will be for the Chiefs he said, “I would say Christian McCaffrey and probably Isiah Pacheco, both running backs. If we get our running man going we can beat them.”
Aiden and his family live in Hancock County. His father has worked at Commonwealth for almost 18 years now and his mom teaches third grade at North Hancock Elementary. She took time off from work to be with Aiden for his treatments and many teachers in the district donated their sick days to her. The community has given tremendous support to help them through this tribulation.
“We just want to say thank you for all of the love and support that we’ve had from the community,” Casey said, “and from everybody that’s helped us to try to make what Aiden has gone through more bearable.”
“NHES and SHES have taken up money this week and last week for us to take on the trip,” Kaylie said. “We’ve just been taken care of. This is a hard journey and not one that you’d want to be on, but our community has made it more bearable. It has made us feel very loved and taken care of every step of the way.”
By Jennifer Wimmer