A Casper teen diagnosed with cancer was granted his wish in probably the surprise of his life when the garage door opened at a local car shop and his dad and sister Kadynse drove in with the family's restored 1969 Ford Mustang on Friday.

"So it means a lot to me because I've always wanted this," Ethan Miller said after the Make-A-Wish Foundation made good on his wish.

Miller, 18, learned in 2015 that he had a rare form of throat cancer that was treated, then returned and spread to some lymph nodes, and was treated again, his father Mark Miller  said.

Ethan's condition looks good now, but it will require constant monitoring, Mark added.

Mark's brother bought the car new in 1969, and eventually was passed to him, and he said he and Ethan had been working on it, but the cancer came and much of life was put on hold.

Meanwhile, friends told the Miller family to contact the Wyoming Make-A-Wish Foundation, and Ethan's wish was to have the car restored.

The foundation found Ed Franklin of Refinish Tech took on the task, which became a cause he could support locally while completing the vintage car’s restoration process, said Dana Wirtz, director of program services for the foundation.

Tom Morton, Townsquare Media
Tom Morton, Townsquare Media

Wyoming Automotive Refinish Supply donated the cherry red paint for the Mustang and Wyoming Signs gave the car back its classic stripes. Sam Parsons Upholstery did interior, Wirtz said. The Maxwell Family in Casper sponsored the project, she added.

The foundation grants up to 30 wishes statewide a year, Wirtz said. Financial support comes from donations from individuals and businesses. The average wish costs about $8,000, she said.

Many children want trips to Disney World, travel to Hawai'i or Europe, computers, and other wishes that will become memories during the difficult struggle with life-threatening, critical illnesses, she said.

"Wishes are good medicine," Wirtz said. " It brings in a lot of hope, and you know hope does a lot emotionally and physically for kids. It's hard to put a statistic on that, but what it does emotionally is amazing."

So Ethan made his wish, Make-A-Wish made the arrangements, the car was in restoration, Ethan graduated from Natrona County High School, and now is studying criminal justice at Casper College.

The biggest challenge then became keeping the progress a secret.

Ethan knew it was being restored, the question was when, and he kept bugging his dad about it.

"In January when he asked, I said, 'Look, I don't thing you're going to get it until this summer; the guy's busy,'" Mark said. "And so when they called and told me it was ready now, I'm like, perfect because I think he's not going to suspect it."

So the Make-A-Wish foundation arranged to host a private car show at Z's Classics on East Yellowstone Highway. They invited some people, and had two of Ethan's buddies tell him Friday afternoon that they wanted to go out for dinner but stop at a car show along the way.

"I could kind of hear a rumbling from outside, but I really didn't recognize it because I wasn't expecting it, really," Ethan said. "The car rolled on through, and the first words out of my mouth were, 'is that my car?' and I was speechless from there."


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