Amid his own recovery from a brain tumor, he chose to utilize his Make-a-Wish grant to spread joy to other children facing health challenges.
Paying it forward has no face. It could be something sweet and small or great and grand. Jude Boussom paid it forward most sweetly and grandly. The 17-year-old was recovering from a brain tumor when he decided to use his Make-a-Wish grant to help other sick children feel better by participating in a recent Christmas in July event at Michigan's children's hospitals. "I wanted to give back to people that had it harder than I did. It was pretty amazing to see the joy," Boussom shared with PEOPLE.
Boussom's doctors discovered a growth on his brain in early 2021 after he began experiencing severe headaches and memory loss in late 2020. Boussom underwent emergency surgery and spent several weeks in and out of the intensive care unit, suffering from "blinding" headaches for a year afterward. However, thanks to his treatment, "there are rarely any more headaches," the teen reports.
His father, Jason, 50, recalled, "It was one of the worst days of my life. The doctors doing the MRI spent a long time in the monitoring booth and they pulled me out and said, 'Your son has a mass on his brain. He has extreme hydrocephalus, which is a life-threatening condition that we need to address at this moment.'" During their stay in the ICU, Jason learned that his son was eligible for a Make-a-Wish grant. He adds that he eventually discovered it's often for children with critical illnesses, many of whom survive.
"Not knowing much about the organization, we thought it was for terminal kids," Jason said. "It's an important part of a child's medical treatment — a springboard for families going forward." Given his son's condition, Jason waited a year to tell him about his opportunity with the organization. But after knowing about the wish, Boussom knew he had to give back.
"I asked him a couple of times if he was sure about it," says Jason. "He's built differently than a lot of people — he's always been caring and wanting other people to be happier and more comfortable than himself. So it didn't really surprise me. We couldn't be more proud of him." Boussom chose a Christmas in July since he "saw how hard it was for people in the hospital and knew they could really use some extra help along the way."
Keeping that in mind, "many hospitals often receive donated gifts for young patients around the actual holidays, he thought, 'Why not give them a little extra holiday?'" His wish was soon implemented and the children seemed thrilled to receive the gifts. "I'm super thankful for everybody that's helped me along the way — I couldn't have done it without all of them," Boussom expressed. "And I'll never forget seeing the joy those kids had when they were able to get some presents in the middle of July."
Make-a-Wish Michigan President and CEO Michael Hull says the organization "really went crazy" with Boussom's Wish. While it is not uncommon for recipients to pass on their Wishes to others, Hull claims that "this is one of the largest movements that I've ever witnessed. We made it our mission to make sure that we were walking into every hospital with toys for all ages," said Hull. "We had technology gifts for the older kids and everything down to Little Tikes for the small kids—it was like a toy chest we set up. And when each child walked in, you could see it on their face. They saw toys, they saw Santa. They were having the best time ever."