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Hagerstown boy's wish comes true

June 13, 1998

By LAURA ERNDE

Staff Writer

Cody Ferguson could barely contain his excitement Friday morning, knowing that he would wake up this morning and be at Walt Disney World.

"I'm going on Space Mountain, mom," he said, batting his long, brown eyelashes over his big, blue eyes.

Like many 8-year-olds, Cody has longed to visit Disney World. He wants to meet his favorite Disney characters, Woody and Buzz Lightyear from the movie "Toy Story."

Unlike most 8-year-olds, Cody has a life-threatening disease, muscular dystrophy, that makes his trip more urgent.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Mid-Atlantic Inc. is making the Hagerstown boy's dream come true.

"He was very specific about his wish. He knew exactly what he wanted to do," said Make-A-Wish volunteer Jerry Jennings of Frederick, Md.

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The family first talked about going to Disney World three years ago, said Cody's mother, Susan Newton, a teacher at Boonsboro Middle School and volleyball coach at South High.

Cody's grandparents donated $300 toward the family's Disney fund. But other than interest, the fund hasn't grown.

"We just don't have enough left over to put away," she said.

Make-A-Wish, which has fulfilled the wishes of about 15 other Hagerstown children, is sending Cody on the weeklong trip with his mother and stepfather, Susan and Bob Newton, and his stepbrother Travis, 15 months.

His grandmother, Lorraine Mason of Oakland, Md., is also going, although she is paying for her own train ticket.

Most people fly to Orlando, Fla., but Cody and his family are taking the Amtrak Auto Train from Lorton, Va., because his mother is afraid to fly.

They left Hagerstown in style about noon Friday with a police escort.

"Our goal is, other than packing the suitcases, they don't have to worry about anything," Jennings said.

Area businesses have donated perks to make the trip even more special. The night Jennings brought them their tickets, Crazy Horse Restaurant donated dinner.

Their van has a fresh oil change and AAA donated a one-week membership in case anything goes wrong.

"They have thought of everything and done everything," Susan Newton said.

When they get to Disney World, Cody won't have to wait in any lines.

"They're treated like VIPs," Jennings said.

Cody wants to go to Sea World as well as Disney's Epcot Center and the new Wild Kingdom.

A trip to Disney World is the most popular wish. Other children ask for gifts like a new personal computer or to meet their heroes, said Make-A-Wish spokesman Michael Graber.

As the trip got closer, Cody got more wound up about the trip. He seemed to be enjoying all the attention.

"I'm a superstar," he said.

Cody, who just finished third grade at Pangborn Elementary, doesn't let his wheelchair stop him from doing things like playing baseball or bowling.

"I'm going for a walk, mom," Cody says, and tools down a side street in his powered wheelchair.

His wheelchair got serviced Friday morning, except it still doesn't have the extra power Cody keeps requesting.

"I want it geared up," he said.

Cody has used a wheelchair for about a year.

He has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the most common form of the disease in children and one of the most deadly. Life expectancy is in the teens to early 20s.

Susan Newton said she wanted Cody to go to Disney World while he is well enough to enjoy himself.

"He's so healthy and beautiful and it's not going to always be that way," she said.

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