Make-a-Wish foundation funds Springfield teen's trip to Alaska

Ashley Mertsock. (NewsChannel 8 photo)

SPRINGFIELD, Va. (NewsChannel 8) – A Springfield teenager is getting the trip of a lifetime. This Saturday, she and her family are leaving for a six-day trip to Alaska in hopes of seeing the Northern Lights.

As long as 15-year-old Ashley Mertsock can remember, her father's been bundling her up in the middle of the night to watch shooting stars.

"I've always been mesmerized by the Northern Lights and I'm really excited to go see them for real," Mertsock said.

But the reason for her trip has been a private battle until now. Two years ago she was at a routine physical when a doctor noticed a lump on her throat, eventually diagnosing her with Thyroid cancer.

"At first it's a shock for yourself, then you're wondering what's going through your child's mind," recalled Tim Mertsock, Ashley's father.

Chemotherapy treatments have been successful in shrinking the tumor, but it isn't completely gone.

"There are still microscopic amounts, but we don't have to worry about major, major treatments," Ashley explained.

The Make-A-Wish foundation is paying for the trip. Mary Smirnow, a volunteer with the organization, got to deliver the news.

"You're so happy to be able to give them something that isn't about a hospital, or a treatment," Smirnow said at a recent send-off party where they go through the trip's itinerary.

Her family knows Ashley's future will only get brighter.

"What she has told us, she's gonna get a Ph.D. in something, probably something in science. I see her reaching for the stars," said Shannon Mersock, Ashley's mother.

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