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Montana Hope Project grants surprise birthday wish to student

Montana Hope Project grants surprise birthday wish to student
Posted at 6:35 PM, Oct 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-10 13:18:42-04

HELENA — Friday, a day pretty much every student loves. For Stephen Poelman, a student at St. Andrew School, this isn't any old Friday, it's gonna be one he will never forget.

Stephan, a seventh grader at St. Andrew school, is a type one diabetic, which is identified as a critical illness.

The Montana Hope Project wanted to grant Stephen his wish to go to Florida, so he can check out all of the fun sites like LEGOLAND, Disney World, and one other he has had his eyes on.

"Probably going to go to the Everglades and see some alligators, Yeah, it's going to be exciting," said Stephan.

The Montana Hope Project, along with Stephen's parents and St. Andrew School, were all able to surprise Stephen with his wish right before Friday Mass, catching him and his classmates off guard.

"Awesome because it was my birthday. So it was like extra special too," said Stephan.

After the surprise, he was still soaking it all in, looking forward to what was to come.

"Joy, happiness, excited to skip a week of school I guess," said Stephan.

Stephen's parents, Alley and John Paul Poelman, know how much this trip means to Stephen. So after they found out his wish was coming true, they wanted to wait for his birthday to tell him.

"It's been hard to keep the secret, but also, like, you know, there's this really happening? Are we really going to Florida, hang out at LEGOLAND, whatever Stephen wants to do I guess," said John Paul.

"Keeping the secret has been very hard. So I'll talk about it, and it's like oops, never mind," said Alley.

St. Andrew School's Head of School Doug Tooke felt that the school's students and faculty celebrated with Stephan like a larger family.

"When one of our students, or our faculty members, or teacher has an opportunity to celebrate a life experience, we all sort of seem to brew with joy on their behalf. So to see Stephen be very humbled by this accomplishment, and his gift, was like being his brother or his uncle, you know, cheering him on and I know the students in the faculty feel the same way," said Tooke.

Cate Nelson, the Montana Hope Project Travel Coordinator, and St. Andrew educator, presented Stephen with his wish and was happy that everyone at St. Andrew's was there to celebrate with him and his family.

"It's so amazing. I get to see these kids every day and to be able to do this here, at our own very school, is amazing. It's just been so much fun knowing that we were going to do this and that he was going to be surprised," said Nelson.

The Montana Hope Project has been operating for 38 years and has granted 523 wishes.

This year, they have granted around 30, with Stephens being one of them.

Stephan and his family will be heading to Florida later this October.

Positively Montana