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Make-A-Wish® South Dakota & Montana grants 7-year-old’s wish to teach kids about farming on World Wish Day

Apr 29, 2021 05:30PM ● By Med Editor

In conjunction with World Wish Day 2021, wish kid Koen, a 7-year-old farm kid from rural South Dakota, will see his wish come true in Sioux Falls on April 29 at 4:30 pm at Avera Medical Group Pediatric Specialists.  Koen’s wish is to teach kids about farming and farm safety.  Koen has been diagnosed with a respiratory disorder, which qualified him for a wish. Local media are invited to arrive at Avera Medical Group Pediatric Specialists (1417 S. Cliff Ave., Suite 010, Plaza 1) at 4:15 PM to capture the surprise reveal when Koen sees his wish come to life.

Koen is a super social kindergartner. His mom, Shanda, describes him as “an extreme extrovert who loves life on the farm.” She says his favorite thing about the farm life is riding with his dad in the tractor. 

Koen imagined his wish when he was at a medical appointment one day.  He shared that appointment days are always exhausting and stressful.  The waiting and fear of the unknown can be difficult for him: the drive, waiting to find out how many or what kind of “pokes” he’ll get, the hunger from getting off schedule with long waits, the fatigue on the drive home, etc. 

Koen decided it would be fun for each kid going through these same worries to be delivered a little bit of “magic” on their stressful appointment days.  Koen’s wish is to transform the waiting room at Avera Pediatrics into a farming exhibit with interactive boards and fun pictures of everything relating to farming.  His passion is to teach others about farming!  Reflecting on her son’s wish, Shanda said, “Hospitalized kids deserve some cheer, and a piece of unexpected kindness might lift their spirits.”

“The wish journey gives children with critical illnesses a piece of their childhood back, and every child deserves a childhood,” said Sue Salter, President and CEO of Make-A-Wish South Dakota & Montana. “We have the ability to restore hope and bring joy back into a family’s life through the life-changing power of a wish.  Koen’s kind and generous heart shines through in his wish to give and to brighten the lives of other kids experiencing fear, isolation and uncertainty.” 

Koen’s wish includes three elements:  the transformation of the waiting room into “Koen’s Farm”, an activity book and crayons for pediatric patients to color in once in their exam room, and toy tractors to fill the treasure chest kids visit after their appointment. 

Tractor Supply Company Foundation made a significant $25,000 donation to help make Koen’s wish a reality, which includes toy tractors for the treasure chest and cash to support the interactive educational displays in the waiting area.

“As part of our desire to give back to the communities we call home, the Tractor Supply Company Foundation is committed to supporting today’s youth and agriculture education initiatives. When we heard about Koen’s wish, we were so inspired by his generosity and desire to share his passion for farming and tractors with other children receiving care at Avera Medical Group Pediatric Specialists. We knew immediately this was something we wanted to be a part of, and we are glad to help sponsor bringing Koen’s Farm to life,” said Mary Winn Pilkington, Tractor Supply Company’s Senior Vice President of Investor Relations and Public Relations and President of the Tractor Supply Company Foundation.


Koen’s wish is also made possible by several local generous donors, each with a strong connection to Make-A-Wish and Avera.  First, Jeff and Julie (Norton) Lautt.  Julie is the CFO for Avera and Jeff is the President of POET.  Second, Kathleen Kunkel and her daughters Megan, Katie and Carly, in loving memory of their husband and father Shawn.  Kathleen is Mission Formation Consultant for Avera. Third, the Ty Eschenbaum Foundation – In Honor of Autumn.  Ty is a wish alumnus, having received his wish to go to Disney World in 2004.  During his battle with cancer while in high school, Ty received his medical care at Avera and today serves on Avera’s Rural Cancer Advisory Committee. 


Many other generous corporate partners have stepped up to bring Koen’s wish to life, working directly with Koen through the planning and design phases of his wish.  The design of Koen’s wish was created by HenkinSchultz of Sioux Falls, Nanonation of Lincoln, NE and Avera.  The other groups that partnered to make his wish come true were Journey Construction of Sioux Falls, Thompson Electric of Sioux Falls, Sioux Falls Interiors, Audio Fish, Elo Touch Solutions, Dell Computers, Peerless-AV and Sisson Printing of Sioux Falls.