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Hour's shopping fulfills the wish of ill 12-year-old

A Wal-Mart and a non-profit group collected $1,300 so a boy with leukemia could buy himself and family members many of the things they could only dream of.

By MAUREEN BYRNE

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 28, 2001


SEMINOLE -- Jason Eaves, a 12-year-old boy battling leukemia, got his wish Tuesday.

He didn't ask for a trip to Walt Disney World or a meeting with his favorite movie star. Instead, he asked for a shopping spree at Wal-Mart and lunch at Checkers.

A one-hour visit at the store netted Jason 43 items, including a 25-inch color television, a video recorder, two bicycles (one for his 8-year-old sister, Jessica), a pair of inline skates, video games, a tent and a dozen plastic red roses. The total: $1,275.55.

"I really think it's great that they did this for me," Jason said. "It's not every day that kids can go on a shopping trip like this."

For Jason, such an excursion would have been impossible without Suncoast Children's Dream Fund, a non-profit organization that arranged the Wal-Mart wish.

Money is tight at the Eaves household. Jason's father, Jerry Eaves, lives with a disease similar to muscular dystrophy and is unemployed. Mrs. Eaves is working part time so she can care for her son.

"This is great," Mrs. Eaves said as she followed her son around the store. "It's a big treat for him. Usually, it's "Put it back.' "

But not Tuesday.

Employees and customers at a Clearwater Wal-Mart donated $1,300 so Jason could roam the store and pick up his favorite things. It was the first time the store at 23106 U.S. 19 had helped grant a child's "dream," said Karen Myrick, community involvement coordinator for the Wal-Mart.

In October, Jason was told he had leukemia -- for the second time. He had been in remission for several years after the disease was diagnosed in 1992.

Once again, drugs, needles and CAT scans dominate his life. Chemotherapy made his hair fall out. Steroids made him gain weight.

Dr. Jerry Barbosa, director of pediatric oncology service at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, said Jason's latest tests show the cancer is in remission. "So far, so good," he said. "He is doing very well."

However, Jason will continue chemotherapy for up to two years, Barbosa said.

Yet cancer was the last thing on Jason's mind on Tuesday. A white limousine arrived at 9:35 a.m. at his home in Seminole. Joining Jason for the 20-minute ride to Wal-Mart was his sister, mother and grandmother, Myrtle Foley. His father was out of town.

A limo dropping off shoppers is not a typical sight at a Wal-Mart. Customers stared at the vehicle as it parked in front of the store.

Once inside, Jason was greeted by a round of applause from about 20 employees. They gave him a lime-green poster with well-wishes on it and a blue Wal-Mart vest with his name.

Jason's first stop was the electronics department, where he chose four video games, a camera, a television and a camcorder.

"I think he's going to spend his wad in electronics," quipped Karen Alexander, a manager at the store.

Next stop was sporting goods, where Jason picked up a green tent, two twin air mattresses and a green lantern.

"Now are you ready for toys?" he asked his sister.

Jason found a Super Soaker squirt gun, but decided against a remote control car. "Whoa, that's a little bit pricey," he said.

Two bikes were next on the list. One for Jason and one for Jessica.

"What a nice brother you've got, Jessica," said Joanne Lanning, dream coordinator for Suncoast Children's Dream Fund, based in St. Petersburg. "He is such a nice brother to share his dream with his sister."

Jason also shared with his mother, giving her a dozen plastic red roses and a copper vase.

Last stop was the boys department, where Jason grabbed some colorful boxer shorts. "My mom said she wants me to get some underwear," he told a store employee.

Veronica Parish, department manager for health and beauty aids, stuffed Jason's loot in the limo's trunk. A store employee who owns a truck offered to bring the bigger items to the Eaves' home.

Jason chose to dine at Checkers for lunch. He munched on a few fries, but couldn't eat his hamburger.

"My stomach is kind of excited," he said.

- Staff writer Maureen Byrne can be reached at 445-4163 or at byrne@sptimes.com.

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