Wes Pak isn’t your average 12-year-old boy.
“He is an old soul,” explains his mom, Krista. “He believes in humanity and our ability to make a difference in the lives of others.”
In the past seven years, Wes has been helping to raise tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of presents and toys for local childhood cancer families through his family’s nonprofit.
Needless to say, when doctors informed Krista that there were no more treatments available to help Wes fight his own cancer, it was more than devastating.
When Wes was just 5 years old, he was diagnosed with stage 4, high-risk neuroblastoma, which is an aggressive form of pediatric cancer. Krista explains that in the last seven and a half years, he has relapsed five times, and is now in the midst of his sixth battle.
Still, she says that Wes has managed to keep his spirits up.
“Even though it has affected our family on an emotional, physical, and financial level, Wes has taken it all in stride and maintained a positive outlook on life,” she says.
However, with the cancer now throughout his body and beyond treatment, Wes is back in Virginia spending his time with family.
“It completely devastated us in every way imaginable,” Krista wrote on Wes’ Facebook page. “We told Wes and at first all he did was cry ‘no no no.’ It was the worst thing I’ve ever had to do. It’s still hard for me to believe that this is where we are. Our hearts are shattered.”
After being told his prognosis, Krista says that when Wes was asked what he wanted, he gave a very short list — including his desire to inspire others to help sea life and clean the oceans.
However, being the 12-year-old boy that he is, Wes had another thought that brought him to tears.
“He realized that he would never get to play the Power Armor Edition of the new Fallout 76 game he had preordered as soon as it was announced in June, which isn’t set to be released until this November,” Krista wrote on Facebook.
For Wes, the realization wasn’t just a fleeting moment; it was something that he brought up repeatedly over the next few days. When Martino Cartier of Wigs & Wishes heard of Wes’ desire, he got involved. Before they knew it, Matt Grandstaff, Bethesda Softworks’ Assistant Director in community and marketing, then drove four hours to Wes’ house.
Grandstaff arrived to hand-deliver a surprise to Wes — a map signed by the Fallout 76 team, and a prototype of the power armor helmet that will be included in the new release, signed just for Wes by Todd Howard, the director and executive producer of Bethesda. Not only that, but he also brought a not-yet-released copy of the game.
Since secrecy is key in the gaming industry, Grandstaff wasn’t able to leave the game with Wes — instead, he spent the day playing it with him, making Wes was the first person in the world outside of Bethesda employees to experience the game.
“This kind gesture meant the world to Wes and is something he will never forget and neither will we,” Krista tells Babble. “In dark times such as this, we grasp onto every special moment we can. It is kind gestures like sharing a video game early for a child with terminal cancer that keep us going. A childhood cancer parent lives life from one moment to the next. Minute by minute. Hour by hour. We have learned to always cherish the small things, because that is what will get you through.”
Wes may be young, but his impact on the world has not been small. With close to 30K people following his journey online, Krista hopes that his story will help spark changes.
“Many people think of happy bald children in commercials when it comes to childhood cancer, but the awful reality is that that couldn’t be farther from the truth,” says Krista. “These children struggle through adult chemotherapy just to live to see another day. There is a very minimal amount of funding for pediatric cancers, and that leaves our children with very grim prognoses. One out of five children with pediatric cancer will die, and of those five, three will have lifelong effects or secondary cancers due to the treatments.”
For now, Krista and her family are focused on Wes, and feeling thankful for the people who made his dream of playing the new Fallout 76 game come true.
“To those that made this possible, words truly cannot express just how much this meant to our family,” says Krista. “Before that, it had been days since we had seen even a simple smile on his face.”
Yet, despite the pain Wes has gone through, there is something extraordinary about the fact that he has lived his life showing kindness to others — and that in some small way, the world is returning the same to him, just when he needs it most.