Teenager with cancer pursues firefighting dream through Make-A-Wish Utah

Community News

Salt Lake City, Utah, Foundation, sustainability
Members of the refinery’s fire department standing in front of their fire truck at the home of the Make A Wish recipient.]
Make-A-Wish recipient Jesse Mecham (red top) received news of his $7,500 scholarship along with all the firefighting gear he needs to attend fire school during a surprise visit to his home by members of the fire department at MPC’s Salt Lake City refinery (l-r): Taylor Thorpe, Steve Sumsion, Brock Carter, Cody Hunter, Jesse, Lex Lindgren, Joe Candelaria, Taylor Clark, Jeremy Johnson, Jacob Hoopes, Alex Mongold and Brandon Phillips.   
  • A teenager with cancer is fulfilling his dream of attending fire school, inspired by his late grandfather who was a firefighter when the World Trade Center fell during the 9/11 attack. 
  • Make-A-Wish Utah granted Jesse Mecham’s wish with support from Marathon Petroleum’s Salt Lake City refinery that helped provide a scholarship and all the gear he needs for training.
  • Members of the refinery’s fire department delivered news of the scholarship and the firefighting gear during a surprise visit to Jesse’s home in a ladder rescue truck. 
Refinery firefighters standing next to a fire truck and explaining the use of equipment
Fire department members from MPC’s Salt Lake City refinery (l-r) Jeremy Johnson, Alex Mongold and Cody Hunter explain the uses of firefighting equipment to Make-A-Wish recipient Jesse Mecham (red top).  

After Make-A-Wish® Utah learned about Jesse Mecham, an 18-year-old with germ cell cancer in the Salt Lake City area who wants to be a firefighter, staff members reached out to Marathon Petroleum Corporation’s (MPC) Salt Lake City refinery for assistance. The refinery’s steady support of the nonprofit and its fire department’s resources made it well-suited to help fulfill Jesse’s wish, however, even Make-A-Wish may not have anticipated how powerful this connection would be.

“When I heard of Jesse, I immediately broke down in tears,” said the refinery’s Fire Chief Brandon Phillips. “My son, Payton, was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 11 months old in 2007, and I was living at the hospital after work hours wondering if my baby was going to survive. Payton overcame his leukemia and was granted a wish through Make-A-Wish in 2009.”

Jesse’s late grandfather is the inspiration for his wish. He was a New York City firefighter and one of the first responders when the World Trade Center fell during the 9/11 attack. Years later, he became Jesse’s guardian. After his grandfather passed away from lung cancer a few years ago, Jesse went to live with the family of a friend.

“You guys will never know what this kid has been through, and you will never know the impact you have made today.”

Make a Wish recipient Jesse Mecham sits in the cab of a fire truck
Make-A-Wish recipient Jesse Mecham took a ride in the ladder rescue truck of MPC’s Salt Lake City refinery, getting to sit in the ’captain’s seat.’  

“When a wish is granted, a child replaces fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope. We cannot think of a more deserving kid than Jesse to receive a dose of hope,” said Daniel Dudley, Make-A-Wish Utah CEO & President. 

Make-A-Wish Utah granted Jesse’s wish to attend fire school at Utah Valley University, providing a $7,500 scholarship with support from the refinery. About a dozen refinery fire department members surprised Jesse at this home with news of the scholarship. They showed up in a ladder rescue truck with gifts that included boots, gloves and all the other gear he will need for training.

“We staged it around the corner to arrive in front of the house with lights and sirens going, and Jesse and the family came out running to check it out,” Phillips said. “Jesse said, ‘I don’t know if I should smile or cry.’”

The fire department members spent about two hours with Jesse, giving him a ride in the truck, showing him how it operates and explaining the uses of various pieces of equipment. 

“Jesse’s foster mom said to me, ‘You guys will never know what this kid has been through, and you will never know the impact you have made today,’” said Phillips. “The hope we all witnessed on Jesse’s face, as we showed him how the ladder operates and he looked up to the sky, said it all. Dream big, Jesse!”