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Wish Granted to Newmont Director’s Recovering Son

Denver, Colorado

For most boys, their fifth birthday involves jumping, running and climbing; birthday cake and ice cream; monster blasters and toys designed to gross-out adults.

Wish Granted to Newmont Director’s Recovering SonBut for John Paul Phillips, the blonde-haired, blue-eyed son of Newmont's director of Capital Planning, Kent Phillips, the days immediately following his fifth birthday were marked with flu-like symptoms and a high heart rate.

When his illness did not improve, tests were conducted and John Paul was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer of the white blood cells that exist to fight infections. The diagnosis marked the beginning of a journey that would involve three years of chemotherapy, thousands of miles of travel for treatment and a dream meeting America's most famous business tycoon.

At age 10, John Paul is now fine, thanks to three years of aggressive treatment. However, his fight for life was not an easy one. Among other things, he suffered from pneumonia at the onset of his chemotherapy, lost his hair, endured a daily ritual of oral medications, and received numerous injections into his spine and through a medi-port surgically implanted into his chest.

Wish Granted to Newmont Director’s Recovering Son"You'd never know today what John Paul has been through," Phillips said. "He showed a lot of toughness and maturity. He didn't let himself get down."

John Paul's oncologist, Dr. Timothy Garrington, was amazed by his resiliency and nominated him to be a candidate for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. The nonprofit provides hope, strength and joy to children with life-threatening medical conditions by granting them their special wish, whether it is a trip to Disneyland, meeting a celebrity, traveling to Hawaii to swim with the dolphins, or other requests.

Perhaps it is John Paul's fighting spirit that attracted him to wanting to meet real estate mogul Donald Trump. He asked to meet the billionaire in 2008.

"His desire to meet Mr. Trump took us all by surprise," Phillips said. "As a family, we watched Celebrity Apprentice, and John Paul enjoyed the show and was inspired by Trump." Although logistics made the request difficult to fulfill initially, John Paul was patient and said he'd wait.

The 2010 season of Celebrity Apprentice, Trump's show, presented the opportunity. Maria Kanellis, a female wrestler with World Wrestling Entertainment and one of the show's apprentices this season, won $20,000 for her favorite charity as part of the show's weekly challenges. Coincidentally, the Make-a-Wish Foundation was her charity, and when the Foundation learned of the win, plans for John Paul to meet Trump were set into motion.

Wish Granted to Newmont Director’s Recovering SonWish Granted to Newmont Director’s Recovering SonWithin a week, the Make-a-Wish Foundation arranged a surprise trip for the boy and his mother to fly to California and meet Kanellis. The wrestler turned over the $20,000 prize to John Paul and announced the Foundation had arranged for him to attend a New York taping of the show's season finale in May and to meet Donald Trump. John Paul was speechless.

A few months later, the entire Phillips family found themselves in New York, being chauffeured around town in a limousine and mingling with celebrities. On May 22, they visited the set for rehearsal, where a nervous, yet excited John Paul met Trump for the first time.

During the rehearsal, John Paul was able to chat with Trump (a scene captured on film and shown as part of the Celebrity Apprentice finale) and to exclaim Trump's famous line, "You're fired!"

Following rehearsal, it was time for photos with the star-studded cast. Each of them knew who John Paul was and the hardship he had endured.

"Some of the celebrities asked John Paul for his autograph," Phillips said. "I assumed some would be aloof, but they were all very nice and engaging. It'll be an experience he'll always remember."

On May 23, after visiting the Statue of Liberty, the family returned to the studio for taping of the season finale. During the wrap party, one of the show's producers handed John Paul an envelope, explaining that it was from "a friend of Mr. Trump."

Inside was a $500 gift certificate to FAO Schwarz®, the fantastical toy store. John Paul spent the next morning using the gift certificate to buy a variety of special toys and gifts for his siblings before boarding a plane back to Denver.

"I can't say enough about the generosity of the people we met and the Make-a-Wish Foundation," Phillips said. "The work that they do is phenomenal and its representatives who accompanied us in New York made the experience seamless. What made the wish so special for all of us was that it was something that we, as parents, could never have accomplished for John Paul on our own. I'm extremely pleased Newmont continues to support Make-A-Wish, including sponsoring the Foundation's August golf tournament in Denver. It's a very worthy cause." (The golf tournament raised nearly $24,000, which will fund a Disney Cruise, two trips to Disney World and trip to Sesame Street Beach in Jamaica for four children).

While John Paul won't be considered fully "recovered" until age 13, five years after his final treatment, physicians expect a full recovery. He is now monitored quarterly to ensure his leukemia remains in remission. Since his chemo treatments ended, the boy has swam competitively, played basketball and football, fished, snowboarded, and networked with "The Donald."

His family expects happier adventures for him in the next chapter of his young life.

Editor's note: John Paul appears with Trump in episode 911 of Celebrity Apprentice 2010. Visit the show's website to view the program.

September 15, 2010