By Aedan Helmer
Thomas Quinet politely declines an interview request, passing the phone to his father Marc, while his mom navigates Hwy. 401's dense thicket of weekend traffic.
The 11-year-old can be forgiven.
He needs to grab some well-deserved rest between competing in the Canadian Transplant Games in Windsor, and this morning's Dream Walk for the Starlight Starbright Children's Foundation.
The last time Thomas took part in the walk, which sets out from Dow's Lake at 10:45 this morning, he was wheelchair-bound.
Suffering from chronic cystic fibrosis, Thomas needed every ounce of strength he could muster to complete the 5 km route.
Then, in October, his dream was realized.
He became a successful recipient of a double lung transplant at SickKids Hospital in Toronto.
Today, he will come full circle with Starlight Starbright, shedding his wheelchair and striking out along the course on his own two feet.
He has become a vocal spokesman for the foundation, as well as for organ awareness and for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
He's become a role model for hundreds of kids along the way, and his courage has become an inspiration to his father.
"It's really given us a unique perspective, and we've really helped to support each other," said Marc Quinet.
Last year, Marc found himself in the hospital, diagnosed with advanced melanoma.
He didn't have to look far to find the courage he needed.
"Because Thomas had exposed us so much to the hospital environment, I wasn't at all intimidated, and he helped me a lot through the process," said Marc.
"He's been a tremendous personal inspiration and he's a real inspiration to other kids as well."
Much has changed for Thomas and the Quinet family since last year's Starlight Walk.
"Before, we couldn't go anywhere without having a portable wheelchair on board, and it was basically because he was zapped," said Marc.
"(Today), he won't be complaining about being tired so much as he'll complain about being sore -- he's played a lot of sports this week."
Thomas will proudly display the medals he won at this year's Transplant Games. He won gold in his age category in badminton, and collected two bronze medals in table tennis and five-pin bowling.
"If he feels tired, then that's his limit. But if he feels okay, he's free to push on," said Marc.
"He's only limited by as much as he feels he is."
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