Make-A-Wish Foundation surprises local boy on his birthday

Matthew Tenhulzen, center, with two representatives from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Garrett Stanley

By Garrett Staley

Leota Middle School student Matthew Tenhulzen planned to get together with friends and family to celebrate his 14th birthday at Good Brewing Hollywood Taproom on Tuesday, Dec. 14. He received a big surprise when people from the Make-A-Wish Foundation were there to join the party.

Matthew was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma in April of 2021. The rare form of cancer quickly appeared and increased rapidly, creating a terrifying situation for Matthew and his family. 

“I was in online school when I noticed a lump had appeared on my arm. We went maybe a month, saying it was going to go away. When it didn’t, we went to get a biopsy report,” Matthew said. “A few weeks later, we went back in and they said I was diagnosed with a pretty rare sarcoma.”

Matthew is an ASB member and loves to play sports and video games. His parents, Mike and Traci Tenhulzen, love their son very much. The months following the diagnosis were extremely difficult for the family as Matthew underwent treatment, including multiple surgeries and a round of chemotherapy.

“I had surgery almost immediately after the diagnosis. The doctors did some tests to see if the sarcoma had spread anywhere else. I was quite lucky it hadn’t yet,” Matthew said. “Then the following three or four months, I went to one session of chemotherapy every two weeks until we finally said we aren’t going to do any more chemotherapy.”

Matthew’s dad shared how difficult it was for him and his wife to make that decision. 

“The biggest challenge was trying to navigate through the medical situation,” Mike said. “With the chemotherapy, it just felt like the tumor kept getting bigger and bigger.”

Matthew was relieved to finally start some of his usual activities earlier in the fall after getting the tumor removed.

“On Sept. 7, I got surgery on my arm,” Matthew said. “We got the tumor removed—it was a 10–11-hour surgery. They took skin from my leg and put it on my arm.”

There was a lot of love at the party for Matthew. His parents shared his year in review video, something they have done for him every year. Everyone watched intently.

When it was time for his big surprise, two representatives from the Make-A-Wish Foundation came out and revealed they had brought Matthew his wish, which was a shopping spree. Matthew turned the corner and saw a huge stack of gifts “his parents would never buy for him” to open. 

Matthew received a full lineup of Apple products, including a new phone, watch and headphones, an exclusive pair of Billie Eilish sneakers, two Supreme sweatshirts and more. 

Matthew is grateful to Make-A-Wish for making this happen. He and his family are excited to continue to see him recover and get him back in the swing of things. 

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