NEWS | June 25, 2019

Teen cancer patient gives back to kids with autism

Make-A-Wish unveiling at UC Davis MIND Institute June 28


Carlo Sandoval will receive red carpet treatment Friday, June 28 at 1:30 p.m. for a special Make-A-Wish ceremony and reception at the UC Davis MIND Institute. The 16-year-old Sacramento native passed on gifts for himself. Instead, he’s providing something meaningful to kids with autism and other neurodevelopmental disabilities.

Carlo Sandoval at the "wishing place" in Sacramento Carlo Sandoval at the "wishing place" in Sacramento

“I burst into tears because I was so proud,” said Carlo’s mom, Rhonda Sandoval, of his selfless decision.

Make-A-Wish Northeastern & Central California and Northern Nevada granted Carlo’s wish to be a role model by doing something kind for kids with autism. Thanks to his kindness and support from wish sponsor Bristol-Myers Squibb, Inc., the MIND Institute purchased a mobile VECTA calming station valued at more than $5,000. This sensory-friendly machine helps promote positive coping during difficult procedures like blood draws.

Machine highlights:
• Hospital-grade material that is durable and long-lasting
• Non-breakable mirrors that create interesting illusions
• Easy transport that allows for use anywhere
• Tube that produces bubbles, changes colors and that the patient can control
• 100 fiber optic tails that can be played with, braided, etc.
• An aromatherapy diffuser
• A projector that can display a variety of realistic and abstract scenes
• An MP3-compatible stereo

“We are so thankful for this gift,” said Leonard Abbeduto, director of the MIND Institute. “The generosity of this young man and his commitment to help others is truly inspirational. He is a role model for all of us.”

Carlo has overcome many obstacles in life. The youngest of 11, Carlo was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and cerebral palsy as a child, and most recently received an acute lymphoplastic leukemia diagnosis in May 2018. Despite these hardships, he chooses to focus on the positive.

“One year, he asked for money for his birthday,” said Mrs. Sandoval. “He used it to purchase socks and pizza for the homeless.”

The VECTA machine, which will be known as Carlo’s Calming Station, is significant to his entire family. He has six nieces and nephews, one of whom has autism.

Carlo credits his parents who are active in their community and influenced him to be generous. He hopes to volunteer at the MIND Institute when he finishes treatment and his immune system is strong.

“This is Carlo’s character. This is who he is,” said Mrs. Sandoval. “Cancer hasn’t changed that.”

Carlo's Calming Station is the second VECTA at UC Davis Health. The first, known as Bubbles, joined the UC Davis Children’s Hospital team in 2016.

About Make-A-Wish Northeastern & Central California and Northern Nevada
Make-A-Wish® creates life changing wishes for children with critical illnesses and is on a quest to bring every eligible local child’s wish to life. Research has shown that a wish is an integral part of a child’s treatment journey. For more information about Make-A-Wish, visit

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center
UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center is the only National Cancer Institute-designated center serving the Central Valley and inland Northern California, a region of more than 6 million people. Its specialists provide compassionate, comprehensive care for more than 10,000 adults and children every year, and access to more than 150 clinical trials at any given time. Its innovative research program engages more than 280 scientists at UC Davis, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Jackson Laboratory (JAX West), whose scientific partnerships advance discovery of new tools to diagnose and treat cancer. Through the Cancer Care Network, UC Davis collaborates with a number of hospitals and clinical centers throughout the Central Valley and Northern California regions to offer the latest cancer care. Its community-based outreach and education programs address disparities in cancer outcomes across diverse populations. For more information, visit