Neil Franks, 7, of Royal Oak, and his mother,  Marcia Franks, join Santa and Mrs. Claus in their sleigh at Macy’s Oakland in Troy Nov. 2.

Neil Franks, 7, of Royal Oak, and his mother, Marcia Franks, join Santa and Mrs. Claus in their sleigh at Macy’s Oakland in Troy Nov. 2.

Photo by Sarah Purlee


Royal Oak boy gets royal treatment from Make-A-Wish

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published November 5, 2018

 The 13th annual Macy’s Oakland Fireworks Spectacular lights up the sky before the arrival of Santa at Oakland Mall in Troy Nov. 2.

The 13th annual Macy’s Oakland Fireworks Spectacular lights up the sky before the arrival of Santa at Oakland Mall in Troy Nov. 2.

Photo by Sarah Purlee

ROYAL OAK/TROY —  On Nov. 2, 7-year-old Neil Franks, a second-grader at Addams Elementary School in Royal Oak, personally helped Santa Claus ring in the holiday season at the Macy’s Oakland Fireworks Spectacular show.

Franks, a Make-A-Wish child, arrived with Santa in the jolly elf’s sleigh during a mini parade at Macy’s Oakland in Troy, and he also helped to usher in Macy’s 11th annual Believe campaign.

For every letter to Santa received through Dec. 24, Macy’s will donate $1 — up to $1 million — to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The letters can be dropped into Macy’s red mailboxes in retail stores or submitted online at macys.com/believe.

Make-A-Wish uses the funds to grant wishes for children facing critical illnesses in order to empower them to become stronger, more energetic and more eager to fight their illness.

Franks is due to receive his wish — a goldendoodle puppy — in the spring, after the family finishes renovations to their Royal Oak home.

His cardiologist at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, nominated him, and his mother, Marcia Franks, said she was surprised to get a call within a few months that Make-A-Wish was ready to grant her son’s wish.

She said Neil’s condition is “medically complex.”

“Neil knows his heart is larger than most kids’,” Marcia said. “He takes karate as his primary extracurricular activity, and he knows that he’s a little different in the way that, when he feels short of breath or something funny in his chest, he lets his instructor know.”

She said her son is usually full of joy, and he’s a charmer who can bring a smile to most people’s faces.

“He is the type of kid who will surprise you with an affectionate ‘I love you so much!’ without any prompting. He can also be silly. He will often twirl as he walks, as he enjoys an internal moment of joy,” Marcia said. “He has a stubborn, obstinate side, but he has had to endure more than any kid should have to at his age, and he has done so with courage and an ‘I can handle it, Mom!’ attitude.”

Besides having many doctor visits that often require him to miss school, Neil and his 14-year-old brother, Kyle, lost their father two years ago.

Neil said the countless medical appointments make him “disappointed,” but that he was excited to ride in the sleigh with Santa, Mrs. Claus and his mom, and he wanted to get a goldendoodle “because they’re so fluffy.”

“He was super excited to learn he would ride with Santa. The first words out of his mouth were, ‘Am I going to fly?’” Marcia said. “I’d say (the boys have been wanting a goldendoodle) for three years. Every time they see a dog on the street, they make a comment.”

Sherri Collins, vice president of marketing and brand advancement for Make-A-Wish Michigan, said the nationwide Believe campaign benefits local Make-A-Wish chapters, and 80 percent of every dollar goes toward wish-granting.

Make-A-Wish has granted the wishes of 459 children in Michigan, and more than 9,500 wishes nationwide throughout the organization’s 34-year history, Collins said.

“To be eligible for a wish to be granted, you have to be 2 1/2 to 18 years old and diagnosed with a critical illness as confirmed by a physician, and also not being granted a wish by another organization,” she said. “We are so excited to have Neil joining us for the Fireworks Spectacular.”

The event included live music, balloon twisting and more, Collins said.

For more information about Make-A-Wish Michigan, call (800) 622-9474 or visit michigan.wish.org.