Robotics team members help Make-A- Wish come true

In a joint effort with the Make-A-Wish foundation, Jules Cayer and Caroline McCormick of Shelton, who are both a part of Shelton Intermediate School’s robotics team, The Circuit Breakers, were given just two days to build and program a robot for a Trumbull kid’s big wish.

When Cayer and McCormick heard they had the opportunity to combine their expertise of robotics with helping to grant another kid’s wish they eagerly accepted the challenge.

Colin Hoben of Trumbull got involved with Make-A-Wish after his first diagnosis with Hodgkin's Lymphoma in November 2015.

His mother, Ashley Hoben said she filled out the application form while they were at the hospital the first week Colin was diagnosed and were surprised to hear he had been selected to have his wish granted.

“We did not realize at the time that Make-A-Wish in Connecticut honors 100% of wishes, which is not the global average,” said Hoben. “We never assumed that Colin would be chosen so we were thrilled when Colin was contacted shortly after starting treatment.”

The family was contacted by two volunteer “wish-granters,” Liz Zadrovicz (who happened to be Colin's middle school nurse) and Julie Dunn who came to the family’s home to determine what Colin’s wish would be.

Hoben said it was very challenging for Colin to decide what to do with his wish, but he has always loved all things Lego so after weeks of deliberation he came to the conclusion that he wanted to visit the original Lego factory which just happened to be in Billund, Denmark.

“We weren't sure if it was going to be possible,” said Hoben. “He was very excited when they agreed to do the tour. As if it couldn't get any better, we were offered unlimited access to Legoland Park and a stay at the Legoland Hotel overlooking the Park.”

This is where Cayer and McCormick came in. Hoben said she thought it would be a cool idea to have a Lego robot built for Colin and present it to him at the going away party before his trip to Denmark.

Hoben said he first saw a show about the factory when he was at the hospital. Having the opportunity to actually go to the factory and see how and where Lego started was truly a dream come true. Make-A-Wish paid for the entire family to go, which in the Hoben’s case was five people since Colin has two brothers.

Jules said the experience was like no other as her team is accustomed to preparing robots with a specific purpose during competitions.

“It was awesome,” said Cayer. “He looked so happy while him and his friends were playing with it.”

Cayer said the challenge of building and programming the robot in just two days was difficult but she and McCormick couldn’t turn down the opportunity to make another kid’s dream come true.

“I was so honored to be a part of this,” said McCormick. “Colin is an inspiration to me.”

Hoben said Colin has been playing with the robot a lot since the girls presented it to him at his party.

Adventures in Denmark

Because the family was given an eight-day trip and Billund is mainly made up of Legoland and the factory, they flew into Copenhagen first to see more of Denmark.

Hoben said the family first spent three days seeing the major sights in Copenhagen.

“We went on a Canal Tour, ate lunch along the beautiful Nyhavn Canal, saw The Little Mermaid Statue, the Crown Jewels at Rosenborg Castle, and the changing of the guard at Amalienborg Palace and the Citadel. We also rented bikes for the day, a very common way to get around. There are more bikes on the street than cars in Copenhagen. “

On the fourth day the family drove a rented car to Billund. It is a three-hour drive through the countryside. On the way, they stopped at a Viking Museum in Roskilde. There, they took an hour sail on a replica of a Viking ship and they even had them row for about 10 minutes to get the full experience, according to Hoben.

While the family enjoyed experiencing all that Denmark has to offer, the anticipation of seeing the Lego factory continued to build for Colin and his brothers.

“To say that the boys were excited when we pulled into Billund and saw Legoland would be an understatement,” said Hoben. “We checked in to Legoland hotel where we were given an amazing room overlooking the park. We spent the next few days at the park where Make-A-Wish worked in conjunction with Denmark's equivalent charity, Merlin's Magic Wand to give us unlimited access including one day with a fast pass onto the rides.”

On the fifth day, the family was introduced to a morning guide who fast passed them on all of  the park’s rides and gave Colin and his brothers a Lego set. On the sixth day, the family got to visit the factory which was Hoben described as a true “highlight.”

“We got to see where Legos are made. Prior to the trip, we watched Beyond the Brick: A Lego Brickumentary and it was really neat to actually see what was in the documentary. We were led around by a retired Lego production manager who gave us a very thorough private tour. We spent about an hour and a half seeing every bit of the factory from the colored beads to molds to storage as well as some of the offices,” said Hoben.

After enjoying some lunch at the factory, the family finally got the chance to visit the Lego Idea House Museum to see the history of Lego, the first Lego set, as well as many Lego sets through the decades including the top sellers this year.  Colin and his brothers were sent home with Lego sets and mini figures.  The family finished their eight-day trip at Legoland.

Hoben said Colin was too shy to put it in his own words, but the trip meant the world to their family and especially to him.

“Our entire family, especially Colin, has had to endure a lot over the past year and a half. As a family, we have collectively struggled. This trip allowed us to to finally focus on something positive instead of being preoccupied with worry and constant doctors appointments, we were able to let go,” said Hoben. “We weren't burdened with details, with planning, with the expense. Make-A-Wish really made it possible for us to take something unimaginable and make it possible.”

Hoben said she is  hopeful this trip will resonate with Colin forever.

“Our hope is that Colin will look back on this time and have forgotten about all of the negative and just remember this amazing trip of a lifetime,” said Hoben. “I suspect that is what Make-A-Wish hopes as well. There are really so many people who worked to make this opportunity possible for us. We are eternally grateful.”