When the Norwalk boy turned 6 on March 4, the foundation also gave him a special surprise. Founded in 2000, Casey Cares is a non-profit organization which serves critically ill children in eight states and Washington. Freed, who has pre-B acute lymphocytic leukemia, was the 6,156th child to receive a birthday present from the foundation.
“Casey Cares does a lot of things for us,” said his mother, Natalie. “I could cry as good as they were with them.”
During their vacation in Cincinnati, the foundation paid for a hotel for two nights. Preston, his 5-year-old sister Scarlett and their mother went to WinterFest at Kings Island. They also played laser tag and mini-bowling, were in a bounce house, crossed a rope bridge and visited the Newport Aquarium. Preston said his favorite part was “beating Mom” at laser tag, which they played twice.
Natalie said the Casey Cares Foundation regularly goes “above and beyond to make sure he is OK.” In describing the celebration vacation, she said it’s an opportunity for her family to get away “from the craziness of chemo.”
Her son has had leukemia for about 18 months. Preston has a chemotherapy treatment once a month through the mediport in his chest. In addition, there are pills he has to take at home.
“He still has another year-and-a-half of treatment,” his mother said.
Casey Cares provides a birthday gift delivery to every child enrolled in its programs. Natalie Freed was enrolled after contacting her social worker at The Cleveland Clinic.
“More than 20,000 children are diagnosed with a critical illness every year. At Casey Cares, we serve families with children battling everything from cancer to sickle cell disease to cystic fibrosis. In nearly two decades, Casey Cares has also provided thousands of families opportunities to participate in group parties, athlete meet-and-greets, sporting events and museum trips. We also provide at-home movie and PJ nights when kiddos are too sick to go out,” founder and executive director Casey Baynes said.
“Our birthday program is especially important to us because we know how critical each birthday is to children who are fighting for their lives every day.”
Preston and his family have participated in 13 uplifting activities since November 2017. In addition to the Cincinnati vacation, they have enjoyed the Center of Science and Industry, “Sesame Street Live,” Full Throttle Go Karts, “Marvel Live” and Monster Jam and received a $50 Walmart gift card.
His doctors have said there is a 96-percent cure rate for Preston, his mother said.
“Even if it does come back, they can do this treatment all over again — the three-year cycle,” she added.
Preston, who attended the Norwalk Catholic School (NCS) Early Childhood Center last year, will be going to the NCS elementary school. His mother praised staff members for going “above and beyond” in being accommodating and even more importantly, making sure he and his family are doing well.
“They are a good group of people,” she said.
Despite having pre-B acute lymphocytic leukemia, Preston is as active as any boy his age. He asks for snacks, has a lot of energy and generally doesn’t let his illness get the better of him. He said his favorite things to do are playing on his swingset, going to Soak City or Cedar Point and playing in the sprinkler.
“Yeah, I’m fine. I was just really sick,” he said.