Southern California resident Carter Ankeny just checked the last thing off his summer bucket list.
The 4-year-old boy has always wanted to visit Legoland Califonia, but when the family first planned a trip to the park two years ago, they learned Carter had acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Carter underwent treatment, and once again the family planned a trip to the theme park, this time in August.
“We had it booked and everything and then the day after Fourth of July this last Wednesday … we received a call from his oncologist that he had just relapsed with leukemia,” Carter’s father, Tim Ankeny, said.
The family knew they would have to keep Carter away from public places for the next eight to 10 months while he went through another round of treatment.
In the meantime, the family started reaching out to friends and officials online, figuring out if there was any way they would be able to stay at the completely booked hotel at Legoland before the treatment began.
“It took on a life of its own,” Carter’s mom, Jamie Ankeny, said. “I mean friends and friends and acquaintances and strangers just started sharing and posting and tweeting and emailing and making phone calls and – I mean my entire Facebook feed was just Carter.”
The request found its way to Legoland and its children's charity, called "Merlin's Magic Wand.”
“It gets to your heart and it touches you,” Legoland spokesperson Julie Estrada said. “We were very fortunate to make this happened so quickly.”
Estrada said the resort cannot always pull a wish together so quickly, but this time around, they had a cancellation and the team was able to work some magic.
The Ankneys now have two nights booked at the Legoland Hotel with the VIP experience: the whole family will get to go right to the front of ride lines and get into the park early.
Estrada said she hopes the weekend is a breakaway from the day-to-day grind the family is going through.
“Carter’s amazing. He’s so strong. He gave me a high-five and my hand actually hurt afterwards,” she laughed. “As a mom, it’s something that touches your heart and it’s something here at Legoland California Resort we really love to be able to help families in that circumstance.”
The Fountain Valley family was originally planning to drive to Las Vegas for one of the Lakers' summer games this weekend, but when they got the booking at Legoland, they decided to keep their real destination a secret from Carter.
Carter said he did not know where they were going until he saw the big Lego men at the entrance.
“[I want to] have a picnic, go [to] Legoland, eat popsicles, read lots of books and watch movies,” Carter told NBC 7 after checking out his family’s room at the Legoland Hotel Saturday.
His mother says she is extremely grateful to their #CarterStrong community, Legoland and Merlin’s Magic Wand for making this happen.
After this weekend, Carter will have to go back to the hospital for more treatments, but for now, his family is focused on having fun.
“We didn’t have to bring medicine, we didn’t have to bring chemo for him to take,” Julie explained. “We can just have a great weekend and just make these little memories that last.”