Flying dreams come true for Ont. boy with leukemia
OTTAWA -- Time is precious. Making the most of every minute counts and one boy's dream, with the help of a community, has taken off in ways he never thought possible.
It's an out of this world experience and one of his guides is someone who's been there. Alex Mckeown loves all things aeronautic and staff at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum reached out to offer a closed-door tour. His first lesson in flight is from astronaut Dr. Robert Thirsk.
Thirsk showed Alex around the exhibits, explaining what life was like in space. Alex had a pressing question for the Canadian hero: "Can you eat hamburgers in space station?"
The answer is no, and Alex was shown small packages of dried foods and bags of water.
Before Alex continued on to the rest of the museum for his behind-the-scenes peak at airplane exhibits, he received mission patches from the astronaut, badges of honour. The eight-year-old boy from Bowmanville has earned them.
"He's got perseverance, he's got courage, he's got all the attributes that astronauts aspire to be," Thirsk said.
As Alex claims aboard war time planes with his parents, Michael and Sheri, and sister MacKenzie, it gives them a chance to explore and smile together. To put aside a battle of their own.
"Christmas Eve 2018 he was diagnosed with leukaemia," says father Michael Mckeown. Alex has fought hard. He's undergone bone marrow transplants, chemotherapy, transfusions and experimental drug therapies.
"The last time, the doctor said it's time to start making memories, that the treatment—it's not time to do that anymore, so we started making memories."
And they have. Cheering at hockey games, meeting his favourite players, swimming in the ocean and a call out on social media for pilots to lift his spirits, answered.
The community response has been sky-high. Alex has flown in floatplanes and helicopters, even taking the controls.
Behind the museum at the Rockcliffe Airport, he will be taking flight once again.
First up is an open cockpit biplane tour of downtown Ottawa with his mom, provided by Ottawa Biplane Adventures. The two zip away into the sky, checking out sights like Parliament Hill and the Canadian Museum of History.
"The smile on Alex's face was absolutely amazing," says mother Sheri Mckeown. "We've just done everything we can to help make those dreams come true for him however long we may have with him."
Next is a gyroplane adventure with pilot Andrew Henry. He says we need to take opportunities that we can to make children's lives better.
The gyroplane is part helicopter, part plane and the cockpit is completely open, giving Alex the chance to see right below as he travels across the city to the Carp Airport. Henry even got permission from the Ottawa International Airport to make a low pass fly-by of the runway and control tower.
These unforgettable adventures have kept Alex's head above the clouds and his troubles far below. His father has been blown away by the response of the community.
"The biggest thank you I can give to anyone is for them to see the smile on his face," he says. "I think it's part of the reason he's doing so well right now is he has things to look forward to each day and has a reason to get up and he still has a reason to fight."
The smile on Alex's face does say it all. When asked, "What do you say to everyone who has embarked on your journey to help fulfill your dreams?" his answer,