GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — When Scott Vander Sloot was offered a wish, he could have asked for a trip to Disney World or a meeting with his favorite athlete. Instead, he asked for something that will last much longer — the education that will help him achieve his dream.
When asked what he wants to be doing in 10 years, Scotty has an answer ready. He wants to be a sportscaster.
“If I was really good, I would do what you do,” the Big Rapids 18-year-old told 24 Hour News 8 Sports Director Jack Doles. “Or some job at ESPN where I get to talk. That would be the dream, I would say.”
“From the time he was 3 years old and watching ESPN SportsCenter on TV, he was talking about working in sports, working for a network, specifically ESPN,” his mother, Cindy Vander Sloot, said.
But there was a time Scotty’s dream seemed in doubt.
In December 2013, he started to feel severe pain in his abdomen.
“Initially, the pain that Scotty had, we — the doctor and I, Scotty — all were thinking maybe appendix,” Cindy Vander Sloot said.
It was much worse than appendicitis. An X-ray found a mass in his abdomen.
“I actually felt lightheaded when the doctor said they found a mass,” Cindy Vander Sloot said. “It is a shock. ”
Scotty was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma, an aggressive form of cancer.
Luckily, doctors caught it early.
“It wasn’t the end of the world,” Scotty said. “I think it might be how it was delivered to me by (my doctor), maybe, or just how the whole environment at the hospital was, but you knew you were going to be OK.”
Still, it would have been easy for Scotty to turn to sulking or self-pity. He chose not to.
“If I wasn’t positive about it, it would have mentally probably taken twice as long and physically probably it would have a little longer because I wasn’t doing things to make myself better,” he said.
That was not an option for Scotty. He had already set a goal to work toward.
“You don’t really have time to dwell on it when you only have six or seven months until your soccer season starts and it’s the last time you are going to play. So you have to get better,” he said.
Scotty worked hard to get ready, with his positive attitude helping him get past the struggles. He made it back and scored 23 goals in his senior season.
When Make-A-Wish offered Scotty a wish, he didn’t ask for something flashy, like a studio tour or a visit to an ESPN set. He did choose something valuable, though.
“I decided to go with tuition assistance because it would help me in the long term,” Scotty said.
Make-A-Wish recipients can be as creative as they want, and trips to Disney World are a popular request. Scotty’s choice was mature beyond his years.
His goal now is to graduate from Ferris State University debt-free. Thanks to good grades, high test scores and his mother’s job at Ferris State, he can achieve that goal.
“That will be the biggest thing, I think, because I know as soon as I’m in my career, I’m doing something I enjoy hopefully, and I’m not stressing about how I will pay back my education,” Scotty said.
He also plans on living at home while he attends college to cut costs, and he’ll work two or three jobs this summer.
It costs Make-A-Wish Michigan between $4,000 and $8,000 to grant most of its wishes. Thursday evening, Gov. Rick Snyder, Olympic gold medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White and other VIPs attended the biggest fundraiser of the year for Make-A-Wish Michigan — the Wish Ball at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids.
You can donate to Make-A-Wish online.