"I wish I could give Ashton Kutcher an update," I sometimes think. I wanted him to know when I started performing improv. And when I got married. And when I started writing a book. And when I was widowed. I mostly wanted him to know I was alive — but not in the way preteens long for their celebrity crush to know they exist. Rather, I just wanted Ashton to know I wasn't dead.
I was a senior in high school when I learned my illness, cystic fibrosis (CF), made me eligible to have a wish granted through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. I longed to be a writer or host a TV show — preferably both. But I was too ashamed to ask for something so grandiose.
I often felt unworthy of good things because of my disease.
So, when a Make-A-Wish representative, Maria, came to our house the day after my senior prom, I struggled with what to wish for. She explained the possibilities, and it only overwhelmed me more. It felt like the biggest decision of an abbreviated life.
After convincing myself I shouldn’t ask to be a writer or a TV show host, I wished to meet Ashton Kutcher. (No offense, Ashton.)
I was a freshman in college when the phone call finally came — I’d made it to the top of Ashton’s wait list. Maria asked if I wanted to go to Los Angeles to meet him the following weekend. As she’d done throughout the process, Maria reminded me there were no guarantees about what the wish would entail. It could be a brief hello, or I could be one of several people meeting him at once. I had to be okay with anything.
I confidently said yes.
Maria called again the day before my family and I were scheduled to fly from Atlanta to LA. She wanted to know if I would interview Ashton for Teen People magazine. Heck yes I would.
The day of the interview, a limo picked us up from our hotel to chauffer us to FOX Studios where Ashton was filming “That 70s Show.” Throughout the ride to the studio, we brainstormed different ways to “punk” him, given the year was 2005 and his MTV show, “Punk’d,” was in its prime.
When we arrived at FOX Studios, Ashton’s manager guided me to his trailer to wait while he finished up rehearsal. I needed to use the restroom, and she told me to go ahead — that Ashton wouldn’t care.
I stood from the couch, and, with one foot in the bathroom, the door to the trailer flew open. I scurried back to my seat as Ashton introduced himself.
“Were you about to go to the bathroom?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I answered sheepishly as I stood back up.
With a six-pack of soda in each hand, Ashton headed into the restroom. He gestured for me to come on in, and we continued talking as he placed the drinks inside a small refrigerator.
“Oh yeah. You need to use the bathroom,” he said, then exited.
“This is Ashton Kutcher’s toilet,” I thought as I speed peed.
When I reemerged from the bathroom, I felt calm, as though I was sitting down to chat with an old friend. For the sake of the interview, our conversation was recorded, but Ashton kept steering us in different directions.
“This is off the record,” Ashton would say, pressing pause on the recorder, time and time again.
We waxed philosophical, and I was surprised we shared such similar perspectives on life and humanity. I kept trying to circle back to the interview questions, knowing I had a task to complete, but Ashton was having none of it. He just wanted to talk.
I told him I wasn’t crazy about college, and he said I should see it through — that he regretted dropping out.
“What do you want to do with your life?” he inquired.
“I don’t know,” I lied.
Ashton sprang forward like he’d had a revelation.
“I know what you should do,” he announced. “You should host a TV show.”
I stared in disbelief as I tried to remain upright in my chair.
“I’m serious. You just crack me up. I think you’d be great at it.”
And I shrugged it off. Instead of trying to close a business deal right then and there, I sat in silence. I racked my brain, wondering if someone told him to say that. “But who would have told him?” I thought, knowing I kept that secret close.
We could have talked forever. Ashton made me feel like a regular person, a pleasant shift for someone who’d been accustomed to feeling like a burden.
The rest of my family met up with us as we finished the “interview.”
“Do you have plans tonight?” he asked.
“Nah,” I said, cool as a cucumber.
Ashton invited us to eat with him in the dining area at FOX Studios, where we were surrounded by sitcom stars. Then he suggested we attend the taping of “That 70s Show.” Between scenes, he waved at me and pointed me out to his castmates, to whom he introduced me after the taping.
When I met Demi Moore, Ashton said I was “the person who interviewed him for Teen People,” not as a Make-A-Wish recipient — a simple choice I appreciated immensely.
For the first time in my life, being sick didn’t seem so bad.
Over the next few years, I thought about writing Ashton a letter, but something held me back. Growing up with CF and an expiration date, I was hyper-focused on how things end. We had such a great experience that I was afraid to tarnish it. What if I didn’t hear back from him, and the whole thing was ruined?
Finally, as college graduation approached, I decided I was ready. Since we’d talked at length about staying in college, I decided to let him know I stuck with it. So, I wrote a letter and sent it to Make-A-Wish, and they let me know they’d pass it along.
A few days after my graduation, I got a voicemail letting me know flowers had been left by the garage door. “Garage door?” I thought, confused. I lived in an apartment. The only garage door I could think of belonged to my parents. I called my mom, who said she’d check when she got home from work.
My phone started ringing a little while later.
“Yeah, there are flowers here,” my mom said. “Do you want me to open the card?”
“Sure.” The line went silent.
“Oh my god. Oh my god. Drew. You aren’t going to believe this.”
“What?” My suspense grew.
She read the card aloud. “Drew, Congratulations on your graduation. I’m proud of you. Best of luck. Love, Ashton.”
“Are you serious?”
“I am dead serious.” She read the card again, even slower.
Ever the skeptic, I feared they’d been sent from someone at Make-A-Wish — because, again, I felt unworthy of good things. I called the florist to investigate further.
“All I can tell you is that the order was placed online from New York City this morning.”
I couldn’t believe it. I’d gotten flowers from Ashton Kutcher — the “fun fact” of a lifetime.
Shout out to digital cameras!
Ashton’s been on my mind recently. Earlier this month, the Make-A-Wish Foundation announced that, beginning in 2024, patients with CF will no longer automatically qualify for wishes “given the ongoing life-changing advances in cystic fibrosis research and treatment.”
For the most part, that’s wonderful news!
(Note: I won’t dig too deep into that here because many CF patients are still awaiting a breakthrough — and the Make-A-Wish Foundation is an amazing organization. The situation is complex.)
After some trial and error (and tears), I am one of the lucky ones who has benefitted from recent medical developments. In fact, I’m twice the age I was when I met Ashton, and I’ve lived more than a lifetime since. Sometimes it feels like my life is just beginning.
When I met Ashton, I was in a dark place because I feared the end was drawing near. I struggled to understand my purpose and recognize my value. I felt like damaged goods.
But to Ashton, I was human. I wasn’t my illness. I wasn’t someone to pity. I was just me, and I was worthy of good things.
And I still am.
“I wish I could give Ashton Kutcher an update,” I thought as I read the announcement from Make-A-Wish.
I’d tell him that meeting him is still one of the most soul-satisfying moments of my life — to know he saw something in me that I couldn’t yet see in myself.
I’d tell him I’ve defied the odds and am chasing my dreams.
And, since I’m still alive to say it, I’d tell him he got punk’d.
Update: The morning after I shared this story, I woke up to an amazing surprise. Shout out to Ashton for making yet another wish come true! Check it out on Twitter.