BONE MARROW DRIVE IN HONOR OF MICHAEL WANSER
Bone marrow drive to honor Michael Wanser
In their son's honor, family joins fight against cancer
By Michelle Freed I Oct 23, 2012
It's been a year since Michael Wanser, affectionately known as "Iron Man Mike," lost his battle with acute myeloid leukemia.
The 6-year-old boy from Zionsville died Oct. 23, 2011, with his brave face and ornery sense of humor intact. But thanks to his family, Michael's legacy lives on.
The son of Target Chip Ganassi Racing team manager Barry Wanser and his wife, Laurie, and a brother to Robert, 5, Michael inspired those around him, whether it was hospital staff, total strangers, or the local celebrities who regularly visited his bedside (including IndyCar driver Dario Franchitti and Colts player Justin Snow).
But it was Michael's special bond with two-time Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon that was of particular significance. The two were friends, enjoying spending time together and playing video games. Wheldon visited Michael's bedside shortly before he was killed in a crash during a race in Las Vegas. Michael died less than a week later.
"The last few weeks of Michael's life were all about celebrating," said Laurie Wanser. "He fought hard against the cancer, but once we knew there just wasn't anything else we could do, he was at peace. He had a great sense of humor, and he really just wanted to help others and enjoy the time he had left.
"When Michael learned of Dan's death, he actually had a sense of calm," said Laurie. "He was looking forward to seeing Dan in heaven, and being able to play more video games with his buddy . . . and beating him."
"Michael will remain forever in our hearts and our dreams, and we think of him every day," his father, Barry, said. "As we continue to cope with his absence, we also want to help others and be involved with charity events and organizations."
One such event is the upcoming Indiana Blood Center's Iron Man Blood and Bone Marrow Drive on Nov. 3 in Zionsville. The family hopes to raise awareness and encourage others to sign up for bone-marrow registries.
"It is so difficult for families to cope with a loved one's illness," said Laurie. "Just knowing that there is a match out there should they need it is an incredible gift. . . . It offers families peace of mind."
"So many family members, friends and strangers have told us how Michael's story changed their lives," Barry said. "While we miss him beyond words, hearing these stories has been a blessing."
Although the anniversary of Michael's death has been difficult for the Wanser family, they offer hope to others.
"Children do beat these cancers," Barry said. "There are dedicated people working every day to find new, more successful, treatments and cures.
"Cancer may have taken Michael, but it never took his spirit -- to love the life he was given, to laugh every day, and to touch the hearts of as many people as he could in his six years with us."
In Michael's honor:
What: "Iron Man" Blood and Bone Marrow Drive, in honor of Michael Wanser.
When: Noon to 5 p.m. Nov. 3 at Marsh supermarket, 5 Boone Village, Zionsville.
Contact: You can schedule an appointment at www.DonorPoint.org. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/pages/ Iron-Man-Mike-and-Wanser-Family-prayer- page/287795161249737.