LA SCIE, N.L. — Joshua Cassell has had a run of hard luck in recent years, but that changed last month.
The seven-year-old from La Scie has been dealing with a serious medical problem since he was three. His mother Candace Waterman says Joshua has spent a lot of time in doctor’s offices in, from Baie Verte to Grand Falls-Windsor and the Janeway Children’s Health and Rehabilitation Centre in St. John’s.
Joshua had scarlet fever at age three, but his health problems continued long after that was cleared.
Although an exact diagnosis hasn’t been made, sodium and sugar consumption has been linked to drops in potassium in his body that sometimes renders him without use of his legs.
Last month, Waterman, and her husband Colin, received a call from staff at Hillside Elementary where Joshua is a Grade 2 student. They were asked to come in to meet with them for some very exciting news, she said.
Because it was nearing the end of the school year and he had missed so much school over the past couple of years, the proud mom thought Joshua was receiving an award such as most improved student. However, the true reason was far more exciting.
Joshua was selected as the grand prize recipient of the School Milk Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador’s S’Milk Bucks contest. He had won a trip for four to Florida to go to Disneyland or Universal Studios.
“I was shocked, I didn’t know what to think,” Waterman told The Nor’wester. “I was just so proud, thought he had done well in school. I didn’t know how to react. I cried.”
They kept it a secret from the Joshua that day and the school held a special ceremony where draw was played in front of the entire school and on Facebook Live.
Joshua said he really wanted to be the winner.
“I was really surprised,” he said. “I had my toes crossed, my tongue crossed, plus my fingers crossed.”
Ironically, the young boy had shown symptoms of lactose intolerance since an early age, but it was discovered that chocolate milk didn’t have the same impact on him as white milk.
The contest derived from a s’milk buck being awarded to a student for every purchase of milk during the year. Although uncertain just how many, Waterman says her son definitely had his share of entries.
“If there is any child — and not because he’s mine — that deserves it, he really does,” mom said, fighting back the tears.
The five days and four nights in Florida at Disneyland, expected to be in August or September, is a dream trip for the family.
“It is life-changing,” she said. “It is something I have always wanted to be able to do for our son, and I knew we would never be able to do it.
“This sort of thing just don’t happen to us.”
They have decided to extend the vacation to a full week at their own expense.
Because of his strict diet, Joshua has not had a lot of takeout food in his life. He did finally get a trip to McDonalds recently, and is a big fan of the chicken nuggets there. Along with visiting Legoland, he is excited about visiting the world’s largest McDonald’s on the trip.