ALGONQUIN – Sunshine. That is the perfect word to describe 11-year-old Michael Masters.
To sit across from him as he indulges in his favorite double dog from Dante’s in Algonquin, one can’t help but feel the positivity he radiates and the warmth he ignites in the heart, holding his smile during each enormous bite.
Just another one of life’s inexplicable misfortunes. Sunshine is the one thing that Michael needs to avoid. On Nov. 1, the Algonquin boy was told he had systemic lupus ereythematosis, an autoimmune disease more commonly known as lupus.
In a very matter-of-fact and grown-up way, Michael explained that his body sees his organs as disease, which causes his body to attack healthy tissue.
“I knew it was going to be bad,” Michael said. “They kept associating it with cancer. I don’t see my Papa very much because he lives in Colorado and when he found out, he said he would be on the first plane out. I knew that wasn’t normal.”
Although Michael understands the seriousness of his disease and all that comes with chemotherapy treatments, steroid injections and a laundry list of medications, his attitude remains light and full of excitement for the future.
“I’m a happy person,” he said. “I’m always smiling and having fun.”
Michael gathered with friends and family Monday evening at his favorite restaurant, Dante’s, for a night of food and fun, thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Dante’s owner Radi Hashish.
“Tonight is all about Michael,” Hashish said. “We are honored to have him here. Tonight this is his restaurant. He’s the boss.”
Michael took orders from behind the counter, outfitted in his newly acquired Dante’s T-shirt, Vienna Beef apron and hat, and wearing his signature ear-to-ear smile. He joked with his little brother about putting barbecue sauce on his hot dog.
“This is an enhancement of his wish,” Ken Kemp, Michael’s wish granter. “Michael is always cheerful. I became a volunteer for Make-A-Wish because I love the relationship that you get to form with these children and their families. You never lose track and Michael is such an inspiration.”
Michael’s family is soon to receive a hot tub with a gazebo over it, along with an enclosed sitting area, as his Make-A-Wish. It will be a safe place where Michael can enjoy reading and playing outside without the threat that the direct sunlight poses.
“Even if Michael’s wish wasn’t granted, we had so much fun dreaming about it,” said his mother, Jen Schuh. “He is so positive and enlightening. His smiling face is what gets us through.”
Michael’s dream of becoming an NFL football player likely is not in the cards, but he is hopeful and said he enjoys the program at his middle school that gets kids thinking about their college path.
“I’m going to make sure I stay out of the sun and take my pills,” Michael said. “I know it will be hard when the summer comes but I’ll still have fun.”