In late June 2023, we received reader mail that asked if a story was true that claimed a 7-year-old cancer patient was denied her Make-A-Wish gift due to the cost of the search for Titan, the OceanGate Expeditions-owned submersible that was believed to have imploded earlier in the same month while en route to explore the Titanic wreckage, killing all five people onboard.
A search for this story led us to a page on NewsBreak.com that showed hundreds of comments under the headline, "7 Year Old Cancer Patient Denied Make-A-Wish Due to Titan Search Funds."
The page on NewsBreak pointed us in the direction of the original article. It was hosted on cvhsscribe.com, a website that's described as "the student news site of Cleveland High School," located in Johnston County, North Carolina.
The article told the purported story of a young cancer patient from Illinois named Anna Clark:
Poor little Anna, who was granted a Make-A-Wish due to her never-prevailing fight against cancer, will not receive her one request: for her family's relief of her medical bills. The Clark family, who have never been financially stable anyway, have spent over $36,790 on their daughter's treatment ever since the heart-shattering day they found out about the tumor.
The family was told by a Make-A-Wish employee that, because so much money was spent on the search for the 5 risky little boys on the Titan, the first grader could not possibly be granted her wish. "America just doesn't care about you," she was told matter-of-factly after she awoke from her $9,300 surgery.
In this article from the school website, the picture next to the article showed a young girl who appeared to be in a hospital. This was a stock photograph from iStock by Getty Images, as its generic caption somewhat hinted.
Importantly, the body of the article included several humorous hints that this story was not real, not to mention the fact that the word "satire" appeared directly above the headline. This label was meant to inform readers that they were looking at a creatively written, yet fictional, story.
Even so, we found quite a few comments on NewsBreak from users who apparently missed the "satire" label and believed the story to be real. We have gathered a small sampling of some of those comments below:
"HELP this child. Titan crap is over."
"That worker needs fired first and we should start a fund to grant her wish, and then some. I'm sorry but this pisses me off."
"I gave to make a wish a lot in the past..but will not give anymore money in knowing this 😢 This is ridiculous the Make a Wish cannot allow this little gals wish to come true. The person in charge of this child's wish should b fired..that is what Make a Wish Come True is what it says. 'MAKE A WISH COME TRUE.'"
"Are you f*cking serious these kids deserve this and those rich bastards have the money to go down there they had no business going in the water they knew what could happen shame on anyone taking money from Make A Wish for the damn titan"
"WHAT THE HELL THAT IS JUST WRONG"
"Set up a funding so we can get this kid her wish!!!"
Aside from these comments, several users who noticed the "satire" label attempted to point it out to others.
"Who wrote this? They're funny," one user said.
Others also posted laughing emojis in their comments, finding humor in the piece of fiction.