Riley's race to the Ocean: A terminal teen's dream

By Don Hudson , Robin Saville

Published 02/12 2014 08:49PM

Updated 02/13 2014 12:31PM

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) 19-year-old Riley Person is full of love and gets a lot of love back. Teachers and staff from Vista Education School visited his house on Wednesday because his health is such, that he can no longer make it to class.

His mother, Mariah Evans, talked to us about Riley's amazing teachers."These are incredible, incredible people who love and care about their students."

In fact, they care so much, that when they heard that a tumor caused Riley's hip bone to break and that he had been diagnosed with bone cancer for a second time, they wanted to do something special for him.

Teacher Peter Vanderlinden explains. "When the prognosis came back that he wouldn't be able to come back to school, we said we got to do something for him. We have to reward his efforts."

So, a few days ago they decided to help Riley graduate early. Evans describes the "living room" ceremony. "All the teachers and staff showed up with a donated cap and gown and tassel for him. And did a graduation ceremony. It was amazing."

Now his teachers, family and friends want to help him accomplish one more thing. And they call it "Riley's Race to the Ocean." Evans says "I think he envisions the ocean as a beautiful and peaceful place and I would love for him to experience it and have moments of peace and see beautiful things and take it all in."

Riley has experienced cancer - two times. He has undergone chemotherapy - two times. He has suffered and felt intense pain. However, the autistic teen has never experienced what it is like to be on the shore of a warm, sunny ocean. Evans says the thought "gives him something to hold on to and look forward to."

The family planned an April trip to Hawaii, but doctors said they needed to move it up because of Riley's condition. So, now - if the money is there - the plan is a trip to the ocean in March. Evans says "It is going to be an important experience for both of us." And, as Riley says, an important lesson for the rest of us. "You can't just give up to it. You got to continue fighting."

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