Megan’s Story

Megan Wymer’s story is one of love, hope, and resilience. It’s a tale about living with dignity and purpose and maybe rethinking our definition of “a life well-lived.” In many ways, it’s about the amazing resources that people discover only when they need them. In the case of Megan and her family, this includes several nonprofits few have heard of that are changing lives in truly awe-inspiring ways.

Megan was born in Boulder, Colorado, where her mother, Dorothy Kraus, stayed for a few years after graduating from the University of Colorado. Dorothy moved to Newport Beach when Megan was five. A typical Newport childhood began: Mariner’s Elementary, Ensign Middle School, then Newport Harbor High, with extracurricular activities that included AYSO, Junior Guards, and a spot on the NHHS track team. Megan traveled to Brazil during her junior year of high school and participated in the swim team there, returning as a powerful and expert swimmer. This was a gift to Megan but also to Dorothy, who got caught in a riptide off the Santa Ana jetty one day – only to be saved by her daughter! Megan stayed in touch with the family she lived with in Brazil, returning to see them several times and inviting them into her world and family. Lifetime bonds were formed between the two families, centered around Megan’s bright personality, charisma, and love of life.

After high school, Megan returned to Boulder to attend her mother’s alma mater. In 1992, during Megan’s senior year, a bicycle accident left her with a traumatic brain injury. She did not have a helmet on, and to this day, she reminds everyone she speaks to about the importance of wearing one. Her life and her mother’s took a dramatically different course.

Megan spent three months in an ICU in Boulder before being airlifted back to Southern California to start intensive in-patient therapy. She was not expected to live. But it turned out a new life was just beginning.

Megan moved into the first of several Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (RCFEs) she would live in until her recent move into hospice care. An extremely outgoing and communicative person, Megan brought endless joy and happiness to the elderly residents she shared these homes with, delighting them with her fabulous smile, quick wit, and great joke-telling (in another life, Megan would have been a standup comedian).

Early on in her journey, Megan became active in the High Hopes Head Injury program, the country’s first nonprofit charitable brain-injury rehabilitation program. Founded in 1975, High Hopes is dedicated to giving people with traumatic brain injury a chance to live fuller and more active lives. Megan participated in that program for 23 years until fatigue from cancer forced her to stop a few years ago. She was the organization’s marketing guru, turning all its events into successes. That includes the major yearly fundraiser held at the Hyatt Regency Newport, where Eric Marienthal, a Newport resident and well-known contemporary saxophonist, brings other musician friends along to perform a memorable jazz concert.

Making sure others with traumatic head injuries had access to the same resources as she has always been one of Megan’s great passions. That’s just the kind of person she is.

In 2016, Megan was diagnosed with breast cancer. After several months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment, she was declared cancer-free. It was another story she shared with anyone who would listen! But then tests performed in November 2021 revealed that the cancer was back and had metastasized to her lungs and liver. Megan did not want to go through chemotherapy again and opted for an immunotherapy drug that did not stop the spread of the cancer cells.

In January 2023, Dorothy brought Megan to the Emergency Room at Hoag Hospital to have a persistent cough checked out. They learned it was time for hospice care.

Hoag’s Hospice Care program is another invaluable resource allowing Megan to continue her life’s journey peacefully and with dignity. Her team comprises of a hospice physician, RNs, a social worker, a hospice chaplain, and others who check in with Megan regularly to make sure she is clinically, socially, and spiritually comfortable.

Someone from that hospice team told Dorothy about the Heavenly Home, the new end-of-life care home in Mission Viejo that opened its doors on February 8. Megan moved in that same day, becoming its first resident. Like Megan, the Heavenly Home’s executive director Michelle Wulfestieg is an inspiring example of resilience and compassion, one of second chances and helping others. Michelle is determined to offer comfort to the dying, no matter how much money they have, which allowed her to launch Heavenly Home, the first nonprofit of its kind in Orange County. It is a place where people can complete their lives with peace and dignity, spending their time creating meaningful memories with loved ones.

Since moving into the Heavenly Home, Megan has had a baptism ceremony led by the hospice chaplain. It was a joyous event attended by family and close friends in the home’s backyard. She has spent peaceful moments inside the spacious six-bedroom home, including in the “Tranquility Room” that Michelle and Dorothy chose as her bedroom. Megan says she loves the peaceful atmosphere, the people on her care team, and even the food! That’s Megan. She is always grateful for the people in her life and the care she receives.

Megan may have lived for years with some impairment, but she has had a good life. She is her mother’s pride and joy. She has formed close friendships and touched the lives of countless people. Her Brazilian family visited her while she was recovering from her head injury and made the trip again to see Megan after she went into hospice care. Theirs were among the many lives Megan touched deeply with her warmth, caring soul, and strength. These are some of the inner resources Megan was able to tap into on her journey. But she couldn’t have done it without the organizations that helped along the way. Her family is incredibly grateful to the Heavenly Home for being there for Megan on this last leg of her journey.

5SOS Makes Kelsey’s Final Wish Come True

Kelsey was only 19 when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Originally from Utah, the SoCal resident dreamt of meeting her favorite band, 5 Seconds of Summer. Southern California Hospice Foundation (SCHF) fulfilled Kelsey’s wish by coordinating a private meet-and-greet and watched them perform an exclusive rehearsal.
The Australian band spent several hours with Kelsey, sharing words of encouragement and signing specialty items, including a Gibson guitar which was then gifted to her. Filled with love and hope, wheelchair-bound Kelsey stood from her wheelchair to take photos with the band.

Tania’s Wish – Oak Ridge Boys

Though she’d spent 80 percent of her life in bed, Tania had managed to attend four Oak Ridge Boys concerts during her lifetime. These brief excursions were tremendously positive experiences for her and helped her cope with the day-to-day challenges of her developmental disability. When she entered hospice care for terminal colon cancer in 2018, the Southern California Hospice Foundation was honored to grant Tania’s final wish: to meet her favorite Country Music Hall of Fame (2015) and Grammy award-winning band.

The Oak Ridge Boys’ kindness and compassion was evident in their gifts to Tania. The band sent Tania a special video message sharing words of support and encouragement, and a gift bag full of goodies including the band’s book and a T-shirt. The experience was the highlight of her life, lifting her spirits and helping her escape, momentarily, the confines of a nursing facility.

Tania passed soon after and was buried wearing the special shirt given to her by the Oak Ridge Boys. Special thanks to the band for their extraordinary gifts and message that helped ease Tania’s final days.

For more information on how the Oak Ridge Boys made Tania’s wish come true, read our feature article in the 2018 SCHF annual report.

Ashley and Casey’s Cupcakes

Ashley was greeted there by Casey Reinhardt, owner of Casey’s Cupcakes and winner of Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars.” Ashley was given the royal treatment, complete with party room decorations, a tiara and sparkling apple cider served in champagne flutes. Ashley was Casey’s biggest fan! A big thank you to Casey and the Casey’s Cupcakes staff for making this little girl’s dream come true.

To read more of Ashley’s story, see our 2016 annual report.

Miguel’s Journey to Space with Astronaut with John D. Olivas

While delivering groceries to 34-year-old Miguel and his family, SoCal Hospice Foundation volunteers discovered his great passion for space. Transitioned to hospice with terminal stomach cancer, Miguel was living with his mother and young twin children, finding it difficult to make ends meet.

Pointing to his telescope and sharing pictures of the cosmos, Miguel shared that he’d always dreamt of becoming an astronaut. SCHF quickly set to work to plan for a special wish fulfillment for Miguel.

Miguel, his twins, and several family members got the VIP treatment at the California Science Center where they were able to visit the retired space shuttle Endeavor, and meet a real-life astronaut, Danny Olivas, Ph.D.! Dr. Olivas spoke with the family, shared some special gifts he’d brought, and acted as tour guide for the exhibits. The most touching moment was when Miguel, who hadn’t walked in weeks, stood up to walk with the astronaut to the Endeavor for photographs.

Less than two weeks later, Miguel passed away, proud in the knowledge that he’d shown his children that it’s never too late to live out your dreams.

In loving memory of Miguel Salgado – November 2, 1978 – February 4, 2013

For more details about Miguel’s out-of-this-world adventure, see our 2013 annual report.

Emily Meets Debby Ryan & Bella Thorne

16-year-old Emily was born with an immunodeficiency disorder that left her weak, short of breath, and easily fatigued. Wheelchair-bound and on continuous oxygen, little Emily required round-the-clock care.

Emily’s family was struggling financially with countless medical and utility bills, in addition to difficulties providing the basics, and now had a young child on hospice. Emily’s hospice social worker contacted SCHF to help offload some of the challenges from the family with financial assistance for groceries and utilities. We also discovered Emily’s great love for Disney TV shows and the actors who starred in them. Her greatest wish was to meet Debby Ryan and Bella Thorne before she died.

We reached out to the network to see if we could arrange for Emily to meet her TV friends, and both actresses quickly agreed. Bella Thorne made an in-person visit to Emily’s home, bringing along some special gifts for the young girl and spending the day taking selfies and chatting about the show.

Just two days later Debby Ryan invited Emily and her family for a behind-the-scenes tour of “The Jessie Show.” Emily and her family were transported to the studio and allowed to watch the show being filmed. The cast turned out to shower Emily with hugs and high fives, and Debby presented her with special gifts.

Just one month later, Emily passed away, having had the day of her young life.

In loving memory of Emily — May 20, 1997 – April 27, 2014.

For more details about Emily’s story, see the feature article in SCHF’s 2014 annual report.

Christopher Meets the Angels & Selena Gomez

12-year-old Christopher had been an avid baseball player before he was diagnosed with bone cancer. Following extensive treatments and even a leg amputation, Christopher’s cancer was still advancing. His hospice team knew that he had a birthday coming up and asked for how they could help him to celebrate.Like many boys his age Christopher dreamed about two things: Selena Gomez and Angels baseball.

The Southern California Hospice Foundation went to work and arranged for a treat that would exceed Christopher’s wildest imaginings. First a limousine transported Christopher, his mother, sister, and best friend to Hollywood to meet Selena Gomez in person. Just a few days later, Angels baseball treated Christopher and his family to a VIP excursion at the park: time in the press box, a behind-the-scenes tour of the stadium, and time on the field with the players pre-game.

In loving memory of Christopher – April 20, 2000 – July 14, 2012

To read more about Christopher’s dreams come true, see our 2012 annual report.


Thomas’ Trip to LEGOLAND & Visit from Harrison Ford

Thomas, a vibrant eight-year-old boy, was diagnosed with a rare form of stomach cancer. Aggressive chemotherapy followed, but the cancer continued to grow, and the treatment caused severe and unpleasant side effects.

With heavy hearts, the family decided to stop treatment and began focusing on keeping Thomas as comfortable as possible.

Companion Hospice, an agency that provides physical, emotional and spiritual support for terminally ill patients and their families, was called so that Thomas could enjoy living each day to the fullest. As the hospice team became acquainted with Thomas, they learned of his deep passion for Legos, Star Wars, and Harrison Ford.

Thomas’ hospice chaplain contacted the Southern California Hospice Foundation to help make Thomas’ final wishes come true. On Friday, April 1, 2011, Thomas and his family made an incredible journey to LEGOLAND California Theme Park where Thomas and his family were given a gift allowance from SCHF to spend on anything they wanted.

On Monday, April 11, 2011, like a superhero swooping in to save the day, actor and producer Harrison Ford—who made both Han Solo in Star Wars and Indiana Jones household names—visited Thomas’ home, delivering gift baskets, smiles, and love.

Thomas died three days later.

In loving memory of Thomas — February 24, 2003 – April 14, 2011.

To read more of Thomas’ story, see our 2011 annual report

John Lowson, Grammy artist, produces David’s song – “When I am Free”

David, a 61 year-old man with end-stage Parkinsons disease, had a deep love of songwriting, poetry, and music. His life-long dream was to have one of his songs recorded professionally, that’s when SCHF stepped in, making his dreams come true. SCHF asked Grammy award winning music producer John Lowson for help, and he graciously gave his time and talent to produce the song, “When I am Free”. Here is an account of how it all happened! Enjoy!