By: Joanie Cox-Henry Contributing Writer
As Keeton Nimrod, 14, tossed fish in the water to feed sea turtles at Gumbo Limbo Nature Center on June 25 alongside his family and the Make-A-Wish Southern Florida team, there was an overall sense of joy in the air.
Born with Glaucoma, Nimrod endured multiple surgeries before later developing T Cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma, a rare type of fast-growing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
While heavy doses of chemo and steroids weakened his knees to the point of having to use a wheel chair until he eventually gets knee replacements, it doesn’t stop Nimrod from working toward fulfilling his passion to become a veterinarian when he grows up.
“It’s been amazing to see him finally feeling better and get out and interact with people,” said his mother, Susan Nimrod. “He loves sea turtles and to see him handling the turtles and fulfill his dream is everything to us.”
The Nimrod family loaded up their car to to leave their home in Kansas City, Mo., and head to Boca Raton for the first time so Keeton could have his sea turtle experience.
“We all love anything to do with water, especially Keeton,” said the teen’s father Steve Nimrod. “It’s been wonderful coming to Florida and while we’ve been to Florida before, this is our first time coming so far south.”
Leanne Welch, manager of Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, said the center typically fulfills four to five wishes a year through Make-A-Wish, but they’re not usually the main wish.
“We were honored and delighted when we learned Keeton’s top wish was to come to our center and feed our sea turtles,” Welch said. “We stop everything to make these wishes come true and our whole team gets involved. We love what we do here and getting to share that means so much to us.”
Keeton’s brothers Connor Nimrod, 19, and Dylan Nimrod, 17, were excited to witness Keeton get his wish.
“It’s been an incredible experience for us,” Connor said. “This is one of our last family trips with all of us together. I’m a sophomore at University of Louisiana Monroe.”
Gumbo Limbo’s Sea Turtle Rehab Assistant Coordinator Caitlin Bovery not only showed Keeton how to feed and properly handle sea turtles, but she also allowed him to experience an even closer encounter with the endangered creatures in the examination room.
“I learned a lot about sea turtles and where they live,” said Keeton. “I got to hold a sea turtle and feed one which I always wanted to do. If you like sea turtles, Gumbo Limbo is definitely the place to visit.”
Keeton’s last oral chemo treatment will take place this month. He will then continue to be monitored and receive bloodwork check ups. The Nimrod family said their faith in God helped them make it through their darkest hours.
“There were times we felt he wasn’t gonna make it,” Susan said. “But seeing Keeton so happy and getting his wish is the good after so much pain. Our faith in God is our number one driving force and we appreciate what a kind organization Make-A-Wish Southern Florida has been to us. They have really gone above and beyond to make this special.”