homepage logo

9-year-old Cape boy enjoys special birthday party; Make-A-Wish Foundation sets up SpongeBob appearance, limo ride

By Staff | Oct 1, 2008

He said he is “the world’s biggest SpongeBob SquarePants fan” and that this week, he had the best day of his life.

Nine-year-old Dylan Chandler of Cape Coral got his dream birthday party, courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, North Fort Myers’ Arizona Pizza Company restaurant, the North Fort Myers Fire District and SpongeBob himself.

“He is the world’s biggest SpongeBob fan,” said family friend Suzanne Summers. “His bedroom is decorated wall to wall, floor to ceiling with SpongeBob, and that includes his shower curtain and toothbrush. There isn’t a SpongeBob toy he doesn’t have.”

So Dylan was thrilled when special guest SpongeBob SquarePants arrived at his party via a North Fort Myers fire truck with sirens blaring and lights flashing. Dylan suffers from short bowel syndrome and has received two transplants, undergone extremely intensive medical treatments and spent months at a time in the hospital.

Yet he is such an extremely happy and vibrant child.

“He battles with this every day,” said Summers. “It’s been a rough road, but he’s a fighter.”

When asked about his interest in SpongeBob, Dylan said, “When I saw my first show I fell in love with him.”

Dylan arrived by limousine and said the ride was “excellent.” Then family and friends enjoyed themselves at the party.

Arizona Pizza Company General Manager Jerry Kealler proclaimed him “King For The Day” with an official proclamation, a crown and a scepter. Then the staff dressed Dylan in his own chef’s uniform, and he got to make his own pizza at the brick oven with the help of chefs Patrick Simmons and John Perez.

Mom Becky Chandler and stepdad Tyson Blake helped him make his pizza.

“He’s a very happy kid,” said Becky. “He’s doing good now, we just got him out of the hospital two months ago.”

Grandparents Pat and James Chandler and Carol and Chris Graf had a lot of fun at the event, too.

“It’s a wonderful party and he loves to be a chef at home, so the cooking is special,” said Pat Chandler.

“He’s been through a lot,” said James Chandler. “Being treated medically is natural to him, but he’s always happy, except when he’s sick.”

Birthday party guest Zachary Farina echoed the comments of all the party-goes.

“It’s really cool,” he said.

The Arizona Pizza Company staff made sure Dylan had a great party. Server Jeremiah Fansler said the staff was having as much fun as the guests.

“It’s great, and our general manager Jerry Kealler did a great job pulling it all together,” Fansler said.

“Dylan is an awesome kid,” Kealler said. “He has unique dietary requirements so we found vendors willing to meet those requires and donated the items. Guests who learned about the party left birthday cards and the staff was more than excited to have this young person from our community. Anything like this you can do to help organizations like this is important.”

A specially themed cake was made by Fort Myers Robin’s Nest specialty bakery.

Other guests included two Make-A-Wish of Southwest Florida “Wish Granters,” Mary Alice McHale and Jane Farnsworth.

“We go out and interview the child, children with life threatening diseases, along with the parents,” said Farnsworth. “We listen to the child and ask, ‘If you can have any wish, what would it be?’ This was Dylan’s, the world’s biggest SpongeBob party. He’s been blessed by wonderful parents and grandparents, has a new baby sister and many friends.”

Firefighters Jim Maguire, Jeremie Wyatt, Capt. Bill Schaible and Engineer Mark Westra all wanted to be part of the day, escorting SpongeBob on their truck.

For information on Make-A-Wish of Southwest Florida, call 992-9474.

Arizona Pizza Company is located at 547 Pine Island Road and is open seven days a week. The phone number is 656-1388.