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Community helps grant wish of Turlock boy battling cancer
Make a wish pic1
Seven-year-old train fanatic Koran Rudd, who was diagnosed with leukemia, was surprised by Make-A-Wish with a train-themed room after spending the day with Mayor Gary Soiseth. - photo by ALYSSON AREDAS / The Journal

When given the opportunity to have a dream made reality through Make-A-Wish, seven-year-old leukemia patient and self-proclaimed train fanatic Koran Rudd said that all he wanted was to have a train-themed bedroom.

So when Rudd returned to his home on Friday evening to find the train-themed room of his dreams, he was left understandably in awe.

 “I love it,” said Rudd.

Rudd’s room makeover, which was complete with a train-themed bunk bed, Polar Express train set, television and train wall decals, was just the finale to an entire train-themed day, thanks to Make-A-Wish and members of the community.

“This means everything to us. He kept telling me that he was having the best day of his life,” said his mother Crystal Roberts. “They gave my son everything he asked for and deserved.”

Rudd’s Make-A-Wish surprise began that morning when a stretch limousine filled with family members arrived to pick him up at Cunningham Elementary School. Rudd was taken completely off-guard, according to Roberts, who said that the second grader thought everyone had accumulated near the parking lot to see a Star Wars-themed aircraft.

“He told me that he felt like a celebrity when he left school because there were so many people cheering for him,” said Roberts.

Rudd was then transported to City Hall, where he met Mayor Gary Soiseth, Turlock City Council members and City staff. Rudd was named “Mayor-for-the-Day” by Soiseth before the two went on a private tour of the city and ate lunch in the train caboose at 10 EAST Kitchen & Tap House. 

“Koran wanted to be Mayor-for-the-Day, so I thought it would be a good idea for him to spend time with me being the mayor,” said Soiseth.  “Throughout the day, everything we did was his favorite part. Of course the big room reveal at the end of the day turned out to be his favorite.”

Soiseth also took Rudd to San Joaquin Toy Train Operators Inc. in Modesto, where the seven-year-old said he got the opportunity to control different toy trains and explore a 3,000 square foot building filled with toy train displays.

In addition to being “Mayor-for-the-Day,” Rudd also got a taste of what it takes to be a firefighter when he was accompanied by Soiseth to Turlock Fire Station 1. Rudd was given a firefighter jacket and a brief tour of the station before he had to put out a fire with the help of local firefighters. 

After Rudd explored his new train-themed room with family and friends, he was given another surprise by West Coast Railroaders Group President Ken Marty, who told the seven-year-old that he was also going to take him on the Polar Express on the Virginia Truckee Railroad in Carson City, Nevada.

“We are so grateful to Mayor Soiseth and the City of Turlock for banding together to make Koran’s wish extra special,” said Jennifer Stolo, chief executive officer of Make-A-Wish Northeastern California and Northern Nevada. “It’s always so impactful for not only the wish child, their family, but entire community when so many help grant a child’s wish.”

Although Rudd told Soiseth that he could have his job as Mayor back since it was “pretty tough,” Soiseth said that Mayor Rudd will return to ride with him at the 37th annual Turlock Downtown Christmas Parade in December.

“It is so important to do things like this in the community,” said Soiseth. “This is what our community is all about.”