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Teen finds his dream gift in giving Make-A-Wish recipient buys presents for other ill children

He could have gone to Disneyland or met his favorite sports hero.

Instead, Michael Friedman, 16, who is battling a rare and aggressive cancer, made a wish to give a LeapPad laptop toy for toddlers to 23-month-old Alexis Latimore of North Tonawanda, who has a tumor in her eye.

And a digital camera to Lacora Wilson, 19, of Buffalo, who has kidney failure.

And a portable DVD player to 10-year-old Angie Hackney of Niagara Falls, another kidney patient who also suffers from lymphoma.

"I was in shock," said Angie's grateful mother, Mary Lou Castricone, who sat at her daughter's bedside Friday in Women and Children's Hospital.

"Isn't that a special person?" she remarked of Michael, after he delivered the DVD player -- a pink one, at that -- along with a copy of "Cinderella" to Angie, putting a smile on the weary girl's face as she endured three hours of dialysis.

Michael, who is from Easton, Conn., was under treatment for his cancer at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City when he was given the opportunity to have a dream fulfilled through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Michael decided his wish was to create his own foundation to provide hand-held games and portable entertainment systems to sick children to help them stave off the boredom and frustrations of being in the hospital. The children get to take the games home when they leave the hospital.

"There's really nothing to do," Michael recalled.

He knows all too well how hard it can be. In March 2004, Michael was diagnosed with an extremely rare and aggressive pediatric cancer. In the months that followed, Michael underwent chemotherapy, radiation and stem-cell therapy.

Michael would be hospitalized for weeks at a time. He remembers the overwhelming boredom of lying in bed with nothing to do.

His aunt in East Amherst, Felice Callahan, recalled how Michael had good-naturedly joked: "If the cancer doesn't kill me, daytime television would."

Every Friday at Sloan-Kettering, Michael said, someone would bring by a candy cart for the sick kids. Even though he was too sick to stomach any sweets, Michael remembered looking forward to the cart's arrival.

"It was a break from everything," he recalled.

And that gave him an idea. "I thought, 'Wouldn't it be nice if there was a game cart that came through?' "

Michael decided to start "Mikey's Way Foundation," and he was quickly inundated with donations from family and friends, even before the Make-A-Wish Foundation made its contribution.

Michael talked with his aunt, who told him about Buffalo's Women and Children's Hospital, and they decided it would be the recipient of his first Mikey's Way Game Kart.

"We knew this hospital could use it," he said.

Friday afternoon, Michael and his family showed off a cart overflowing with about $5,000 worth of games and goodies, and he began handing them out to patients.

"Have fun with that," Michael said as he dropped off a LeapPad with Christian Showers, 2, a Buffalo toddler being treated for a brain tumor.

"He likes toys . . . don't you?" his mother cooed as the boy peered curiously at the green laptop.

"Awesome!" gasped Kendall Bazinet, 8, of the Town of Tonawanda, who has Type 1 diabetes and was suffering from a severe stomach virus, after Michael gave him a Nintendo DS.

"It feels really good," Michael said, knowing that he, too, has many hospital visits in his future. Michael learned two weeks ago that he had relapsed and would need chemo again.

But Friday, Michael was all smiles as he chatted with the patients. He said he was especially moved to learn that Kendall had wanted a Nintendo DS for Christmas but his mother wasn't sure the family could afford it.

"That was really nice," Michael said. Moments later, he stopped his cart, picked up a Sony PSP game machine and walked back to Kendall's room.

"Oh, thanks," Kendall cried out.

"I've never seen my son speechless," said his mother, Anne Bazinet. "It's a first."

Donations to Mikey's Way Foundation can be sent to 35 Wintergreen Drive, Easton, Conn. 06612. For a local contact, call (716) 741-4150.

e-mail: mbecker@buffnews.com

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