From the moment I heard about Gytis’ wish to give and deliver toys to the Lithuanian orphanage from which he was adopted, I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to meet the boy whose one true wish was to simply show his family where he was from and share the gift of toys with others. Luckily as the wish intern, I was able to assist with his wish. A lot of what I do with my internship is behind the scenes so I enjoyed actually being able to meet this wish kid, especially a boy like Gytis who has so much life in him. I created the shopping lists for Gytis, his mother, and volunteers from the Nashville Predators Foundation to guide their toy selection. I was also one of the lucky ones to accompany them during their Toys “R” Us shopping spree.
Shopping for the toys that Gytis will bring to Lithuania was an awesome experience. We arrived bright and early because Toys “R” Us generously opened early for Gytis. When Gytis arrived he was beaming. I don’t think he or his mom expected so many people to be there to help. I expected him to be kind of shy, but he wasn’t. He was so polite and eager to shop! It was really moving to see how thoughtful he was about the whole process. He told us he and his mom had visited the store the previous week so he could get the lay of the land and scope out toys that would be appropriate for the kids in the orphanage. He was mindful of the dangers of toys with small pieces; he specifically chose several educational and therapeutic toys; and he was careful to stay away from items that might be too big to ship. I could tell he was taking the task very seriously.
I particularly enjoyed meeting Gytis’ mom, Bonnie. She was so sweet. She told us that her and her husband wanted to adopt but they weren’t sure because adoption is such a lengthy process, but then they found Gytis. Because of his age (five at the time) and his medical condition (cystic fibrosis), they were able to adopt Gytis rather quickly. They traveled to Lithuania and brought him home.
Bonnie mentioned she and her husband didn’t want to change his name at the time of the adoption because it’s a part of him. He had formed a life and memories in Lithuania. Changing his name just didn’t feel right. I think his parents really support Gytis embracing where he came from, which was probably a factor in Gytis’ choice of wish.
One of the biggest things that she talked about (and something I personally noticed) was Gytis’ desire to help. She spoke of how he was always the first to offer to do dishes or clean. A big part of that is because that’s how he was raised at the orphanage. He was used to ‘doing his part.’ At the shopping spree, after the items were purchased, he helped by pushing the carts and loading the bags into our cars. There were plenty of us there to get the job done but he just wanted to help. I was so impressed.
What I love about this wish is that it positively affects so many. Gytis, his family, and all the children at the orphanage benefit from Gytis’ visit and gifts. But the impact goes beyond that. This wish has inspired everyone who has had a hand in planning it. The Nashville Predators Foundation volunteers who shopped with him, representatives from UPS who came to our office to oversee the logistics of shipping the boxes and boxes of toys oversees, our staff, our Board of Directors, his volunteers, not to mention the Lithuanian community who will soon hear his story. Every one of these people is better off just by meeting Gytis or hearing his story.
I look forward to hearing about how their trip went! I cannot wait to hear stories and see photos of the adventure. I hope that Gytis has an awesome time. I hope his parents and siblings get to see more of where Gytis lived before he was adopted. I hope the children in the orphanage enjoy their new toys.