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October 26, 2010

Tanner, Who Wishes


In December I'm going to Kamloops, B.C., to help renovate the home of a boy I've never met. 

I found out about this boy through his aunt, Catherine Connors, who has been raising money to help her nephew, Tanner. 

Tanner has Duchenne's muscular dystrophy*, which makes his muscles weaker and weaker as he grows older. 

He's only 10, but he knows that kids with this genetic condition don't live very long.  There is no treatment for Duchenne's muscular dystrophy and it is 100% fatal.

So Tanner made a life list of his most important wishes - boy things, like riding on a train or being a cowboy for a day - but his biggest wish is to die at home instead of in a hospital.

Surely, that wish is possible.

Tanner needs round-the-clock care and most of that responsibility rides on the slender shoulders of his mother.  His needs require a ton of energy and focus and at this point, Tanner's mum, Chrissie, is running on little more than adrenaline and love. 

If we can convert Tanner's unfinished basement into a space suitable for a live-in caregiver, who can help monitor Tanner's condition (and relieve his mother's 24-hour vigilance), then Tanner's wish is very fulfillable.

It means we need to ask for donations - lumber, tools, air transport and hotel for family and volunteer crew members, storage bins, furniture, finishes, bathroom fixtures, flooring. 

Daniel and I have offered to help with construction and to teach inexperienced volunteers how to use power tools, frame walls and hang sheetrock.  And I also offered to pull together donations of supplies and equipment (yes I did - even though I've always been freakishly nervous about asking for anything; I'm over that).

So while we were out west last week, Daniel and I drove to Kamloops to meet Tanner and make plans with Catherine and Chrissie.   

Tanner wasn't there.  He'd been admitted to hospital that morning with signs of an infection. And although Chrissie and Catherine were making the best of Tanner's sudden hospitalization, their anxiety was palpable. 

We cranked into planning mode, as humans do when they're holding the unknown at bay.  We made lists. Daniel took pictures of the basement for reference and planning. 


I also found out from Catherine and Chrissie that several wish-building heroes have already stepped forward, notably Naomi, the mother of one of Tanner's classmates, who offered to measure and draft the proposed changes to the basement using her computer design  skills.  And Naomi's family, who owns the truss-building company in Kamloops that will donate our lumber.

Stanley, Black and Decker and DeWALT have already offered to contribute the construction tools we'll need.  I think every supplier I'm going to ask will want to participate.  I'll find out when I start making phone calls this week for all of the stuff we need. 

If you have contacts at a company that may want to contribute any of the following materials, please contact me directly:  mag at toolgirldotcom ---

  • Drywall
  • Paint
  • Trim
  • Laminate flooring
  • Insulation
  • Bathtub, toilet and sink
  • Lighting
  • Plumbing fixtures
  • Queen-sized bed frame
  • Queen mattress
  • Toaster oven
  • Coffee maker

I'll post weekly updates on the companies and people who are helping make Tanner's biggest wish come true. Although I haven't met him yet, I have a feeling about Tanner.  I think he's a huge and unforgettable soul with a great deal to teach in the time he has left.

*Tanner's muscular dystrophy is caused by a problem with the gene that makes a protein called dystrophin. This protein helps muscle cells keep their shape and strength. Without it, muscles break down and a person gradually becomes weaker. DMD affects boys. Symptoms usually start between ages 2 and 6. By age 10 or 12, kids with DMD often need to use a wheelchair. The heart may also be affected, and people with DMD need to be followed closely by a lung and heart specialist. Over time, even the muscles that control breathing get weaker, and a person might need a ventilator to breathe. People with DMD usually do not survive beyond their late teens or early adulthood.



I bought a toaster oven a year back that I haven't used. It's a convection model that bakes, broils, grills and toasts.

Also, have you thought of contacting Mike Holmes of HGTV. He'd be a good source for materials.

Stubblejumpin' Gal

You bighearted gal, you. I've passed the link for this page on to someone who might be able to help out with some of the donations you're asking for.

Corey Ann

I am not in canada to donate anything but if they do any sort of online donation for $$ for the cause let us know b/c I'd love to donate!


Gee, you guys, thanks. Michael, thank you for the offer - are you sure you can part with your toaster oven? That's very generous of you. I know Mike Holmes has his hands full with his own projects so I'm going it alone on this one.

Thank you so much for the forward, Stubblejumpin' Gal. Fingers crossed.

Corey Ann, you're very sweet - I'll post an announcement here if they do another fundraiser.


I'm passing this along to my friends, some of whom live in Canada. I'm sure you'll get the donations you need...
Such a sad situation, but also encouraging to see how people come together and lend support. These stories are often overshadowed by all the negativity in the press.

We'll be keeping Tanner and his family in our prayers.


Thank you TaraFly, I really appreciate your doing that.

Kay LeFevre

Fred and I will donate paint!


The oven wouldn't be a problem.

Is there a plan for the basement? It sounds like the goal is a bedroom with a small kitchenette area and a full bath.

From the picture, the needed plumbing tie ins look to be in place. Electrical shouldn't be a problem. There may be some HAVC issues.

Let us know if you get plans and need skilled crew.



Ah Kay, thank you. You're officially our fairy paintmother.


There are indeed tie-ins Michael, and there's a skilled draftswoman who has already identified some code issues so we'll solve them as we move forward. We have to keep the renovations modest because we'd never get permits in time for a full 'in-law' unit.

Thanks for your offer to crew...that's very generous. I'll keep you posted on the plans.

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