Boy spends special day at Selfridge

By: Alex Szwarc | Metro | Published November 10, 2021

 Korbyn Chinevere, 6, spends Oct. 29 at Selfridge Air National Guard Base. He was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a bone cancer, on Christmas Eve 2020. The visit was made possible in part by Make-A-Wish Michigan and the Michigan Air National Guard.

Korbyn Chinevere, 6, spends Oct. 29 at Selfridge Air National Guard Base. He was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a bone cancer, on Christmas Eve 2020. The visit was made possible in part by Make-A-Wish Michigan and the Michigan Air National Guard.

Photo by Alex Szwarc

 Lt. Shane Bilek, an A-10 fighter pilot at Selfridge, poses with Korbyn Chinevere. Bilek said he was looking forward to the day from the time he learned of Chinevere’s wish.

Lt. Shane Bilek, an A-10 fighter pilot at Selfridge, poses with Korbyn Chinevere. Bilek said he was looking forward to the day from the time he learned of Chinevere’s wish.

Photo by Alex Szwarc

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HARRISON TOWNSHIP — He looked like a kid in a candy store, except he was at a U.S. military installation.

On Oct. 29, six-year-old Korbyn Chinevere spent the day at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township.

Chinevere, of Ionia, was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a bone cancer, on Christmas Eve 2020. The cancer is not terminal.

The day was made possible in part by Make-A-Wish Michigan and the Michigan Air National Guard.

Chinevere’s wish was to be a member of the Michigan National Guard. He is now an honorary member of the 127th Wing.

During the day, the kindergartner received a police escort; was given his own flight suit; toured the KC-135 Stratotanker, which is used by the Air Force to refuel military aircraft midair; sat in the cockpit of an A-10; and more.

Brig. Gen. Rolf Mammen, 127th Wing commander, said prior to the day, he wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

“When he came in with a big smile on his face and wearing the flight suit, that made everything worthwhile,” he said. “It’s an action-packed day for him.”

Mammen said other than Air Force leadership mentioning there was a young boy who wanted to come to Selfridge, there wasn’t much direction.

“It’s all these men and women in the organization who dove in and made it happen,” he said.  

Chinevere’s mother, Toni McCowen, said playing with toys and toy guns sparked the idea for the wish.

“He has some family that was in the Army, but he likes to play with a lot of the toys and thinks it’s pretty cool,” she said.

McCowen noted that the timing of the wish coincided near the end of his medical treatment. He is being treated at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids.

“This is a bigger reward than I could have given him,” she said. “I think he’s definitely going to remember it for a long time. I don’t think he’ll take off the uniform or helmet. He might even sleep in it.”

His mom said they noticed her son’s one thigh, the site of the tumor, was larger than the other.  

“They did an MRI, and he was sent to a children’s hospital,” McCowen said. “We found out it was cancer, which was pretty heartbreaking. The chemo was pretty rough at first. The more we went along, the better he got.”

Phil Ulmer, of the 127th Wing Public Affairs, said Make-A-Wish reached out to Joint Forces Headquarters to make the day happen.

“We were having a conference call, and they said Korbyn would like to do this,” he said. “We said we would love to host this. Today is all about Korbyn. It’s a member of the community. We’re Michiganders taking care of Michiganders.”

Ulmer said the Make-A-Wish request with Chinevere was the first one he’s been part of at Selfridge. Ulmer has been at Selfridge about six years.

“The smile we brought to his face makes it all worth it,” Ulmer said.

Make-A-Wish Michigan Vice President of Marketing and Brand Advancement Sherri Collins said Make-A-Wish was very excited to grant Chinevere’s wish.

“It’s been amazing to partner with Selfridge,” she said. “They’ve made this such a special day for Korbyn. Wishes are about a community of love and support that surrounds our wish kids and families.”

Collins added that wish kids are some of the most courageous kids around.

“He was diagnosed with cancer in the midst of COVID, and he has stayed strong,” she said. “This was his wish because he wanted to get the bad guys and show how strong he is.”

Chinevere also explored the A-10 Thunderbolt II, also known as the Warthog. After lunch, he rode in a fully functioning World War II Sherman Tank at the Selfridge Military Air Museum.

Inside the 107th Fighter Squadron building, Chinevere was given more patches, tried on some A-10 fighter gear and was given a flight simulation.

Lt. Shane Bilek, an A-10 fighter pilot, said he was looking forward to the day from the time he learned of Chinevere’s wish.

“The simulation is as real as it gets,” he said. “That’s what we train on when we’re not flying.”

Since 1984, Make-A-Wish Michigan has granted more than 10,500 wishes. This year, the organization expects to grant wishes to 400 Michigan children.

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