Cancer survivor and Make-A-Wish New Mexico “wish kid” Sam Neale, right, serves doughnuts to Presbyterian Rust Medical Center health-care workers Thursday morning outside the hospital’s main entrance. Make-A-Wish, the Jennifer Riordan Foundation and the Neale family provided coffee and doughnuts at three area hospitals to thank medical workers and celebrate World Wish Day. Argen Marie Duncan photo.

A year ago, an area teenager received his wish to give back to health-care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and he gave back again last week.
Thursday, on the anniversary of that wish granted by Make-A-Wish New Mexico, Albuquerque cancer survivor Sam Neale, now 18, served coffee and doughnuts to 250 employees at each of the three hospitals where he dropped off decontamination kits last year. Presbyterian Rust Medical Center was one of those facilities, along with the University of New Mexico Hospital and Lovelace Hospital in downtown Albuquerque.
This year and last, Make-A-Wish led the organization of the events, and the Jennifer Riordan Foundation helped sponsor them. Thursday, the foundation purchased the snacks from Rebel Donut.
Rust Chief Executive Angela Ward said hospital staff felt touched by Neale’s selflessness last year, and Thursday’s event showed the support and appreciation of the community.
“These little things make such a difference, for our staff, for our physicians, and we’re happy to be further along in the pandemic than last year,” she continued.
She was also glad to learn Neale was still doing well.
Thursday was World Wish Day, the founding anniversary of Make-A-Wish, which grants wishes to children battling critical illnesses, said Make-A-Wish New Mexico President and CEO Sara Lister. The 2021 World Wish Day theme is “Don’t wait for hope. Create it.”
Neale did that last year, she said, and Make-A-Wish wanted to show gratitude to medical workers again and involve the Neale family.
“It’s been such a crazy year with the pandemic, and hope is something we all need,” she said.
When Make-A-Wish offered to grant Neale a wish in 2020, he asked to give back to health-care workers. He was inspired by the care registered nurse Shawna Sanchez provided when he was undergoing cancer treatment in 2019.
The result was hundreds of kits with materials for workers to disinfect themselves before re-entering their homes after work, plus gift cards to restaurants and grocery stores. Individuals donated many of the items.
Neale said the idea of the coffee and doughnuts mostly came from Make-A-Wish, but making it happen was a joint effort. He wanted to give hope again.
“It’s nice,” he said. “I get to see some familiar faces.”
Sanchez now works at Rust and chatted with Neale on Thursday.
“It just shows to me his commitment and dedication,” she said.
Sanchez said being Neale’s inspiration reminds her that she doesn’t know when a word or touch during her daily routine can make a difference.