Santa Maria 9-year-old gets surprised by foundation
A parade surprised Rylen, a 9-year-old in Santa Maria.
Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties organized the celebration Saturday to cheer up this deserving boy.
“My son, he had no clue what was going on. He heard the police officer say his name over the intercom and was so surprised,” Rylen’s father, Michael Gallegos, told the News-Press Monday.
Rylen has a progressive nervous system disorder that has stolen much of his eyesight and constrained his mobility. The same disease took his mother’s life in 2020, giving grief a young boy should never have to face.
Although he struggles to cope with the loss of his mom and the frustration of his own condition, Rylen savors life alongside his father — his best friend. They spend time outdoors riding bikes or fishing at the lake.
Rylen’s wish was for a two-person kayak with foot pedals because he loves fishing but would love to break out from the shore. The kayak would make the journey easier on Rylen and his dad because they often struggle to get to a fishing spot.
“We try to go to the lake a lot, but just the walk from the parking lot, down the trail to the lake is hard. I have to carry him and all the fishing stuff. It’s kind of a struggle but with the kayak, we can load it onto the dock,” Mr. Gallegos said.
Rylen is eager to explore new sections of the lake in the kayak and even take a dip every now and then.
“He loves swimming; that’s like his favorite thing,” his dad said. “So now he can go out on the kayak and swim from anywhere in the lake.”
The foot pedals will help Rylen to maintain leg strength and is much easier than rowing with an oar for him — especially while holding a fishing pole.
“His heartfelt wish was to be able to go fishing with his dad. He loves to fish but due to his condition, he has been unable to until now,” Pattie Mullins, CEO of Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties, said.
Local donors made it possible for Rylen to receive a specially outfitted kayak with fishing gear, safety jackets and other outdoor supplies.
“To make this wish more memorable, we have created a big wish reveal with local law enforcement and community supporters. We are excited to grant a wish to such a deserving boy,” Ms. Mullins said.
Santa Maria police officers, the Santa Maria Fire Department, Cruzin’ for Life Volunteers, Santa Maria Physical Therapy Group staff and local supporters gathered in a Batman-themed parade of cars to cheer for Rylen. Many brought cards or gifts, which Rylen opened at the end of the parade.
“I didn’t really know what to expect. I wasn’t expecting much at all,” said Mr. Gallegos. “But it was awesome.
“To put a smile on his face, that’s all I wanted for him. Make-A-Wish is a truly great foundation; it truly put a smile on his face. It made him forget everything he was doing and enjoy the parade.”
The kayak was unveiled at the end of the procession, and Rylen got in and tried it out.
While they usually fish three to four times each month, Mr. Gallegos thinks his son will want to go every day. They wanted to go Sunday but waited because of windy conditions, so they fished Monday morning.
“I just want to say thank you to everyone who participated,” Mr. Gallegos said. “It was really great, and it was awesome to get to fulfill his wish.”