Daniel Stanley said he’s been on a roller coaster ride ever since being diagnosed with cancer three years ago.
The disease has stolen his hair, his strength and his desire to make firm plans for the future. “I just take it a day at a time,” the 16-year-old from Yadkinville said. “I don’t really plan too far ahead.”
But late Saturday morning, Daniel was on a different kind of ride, one that took him 1,000 feet above ground on a blimp dubbed Snoopy One.
Daniel and his mom, Adrian Stanley, were granted rides on the MetLife blimp courtesy of the Baltimore-based Believe in Tomorrow Children’s Foundation, which provides respite housing to families with critically ill children.
By working with organizations such as MetLife, Believe in Tomorrow also offers children the chance to participate in once-in-a-lifetime adventures, such as blimp rides.
“You can’t purchase a ticket to fly on a blimp, and there are only a few in the world,” said Maryanne Davis, vice president and chief operating officer for Believe in Tomorrow.
The Stanleys learned about Believe in Tomorrow during Daniel’s treatment at Brenner Children’s Hospital. In May 2007, Daniel learned his leg pain and swelling at the knee was osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer.
“Your world ends,” Adrian Stanley said about the diagnosis, while waiting to board the blimp at Burlington-Alamance Regional Airport.
Daniel underwent surgery to remove the tumor, but the cancer is now in his lungs. He’s receiving regular chemotherapy treatments to control it.
“He has less than a 40 percent chance of survival right now,” his mother said.
Aboard Snoopy One, Daniel was cool, calm, and collected.
He sat next to pilot Bret Viets, his arm perched on the window, and kept tabs on his mother, who admitted she suffers from motion sickness.
“You all right back there, Mom?” he asked.
“As long as I keep looking up, I’m fine,” she said.
The blimp rocked back and forth as it glided through the late-morning haze. During the 45-minute ride, Daniel took pictures — including one of his mom in the backseat holding up the peace sign — and pointed out the features below him.
The blimp ride is only one way Believe in Tomorrow has helped give Daniel relief from his battle with cancer. Last summer, Daniel and his mom spent a week free of charge at one of the organization’s beach retreats in Ocean City, Md.
Believe in Tomorrow operates four such getaways and is completing a fifth near Hendersonville. Land was donated for the 3,300-square-foot house, and the organization is raising money to finish it by October.
There are about 200 families on the waiting list for respite housing, Davis said.
“This allows a family — when they are able to get away from the strain of home and hospital and medical treatments — to bond together, relax and enjoy and look forward to tomorrow,” Davis said.
The blimp rides have a twofold mission: to put a smile on a child’s face and to spread the word about Believe in Tomorrow.
Today, Snoopy One will take two other area children on rides.
Six-year-old Skylar Miller of High Point was scheduled to ride earlier Saturday morning but had to cancel because he was admitted to the hospital last week with complications from Burkitt’s lymphoma.
“You could tell he was disappointed,” said Skylar’s mother, Zemora Miller.
No worries, Skylar.
On Saturday evening, Snoopy planned a special flight past Skylar’s room at Brenner’s Children’s Hospital.
Contact Jonnelle Davis at 373-7080 or jonnelle.davis