Ever since my little sister’s wish to go to DisneyWorld was granted back in 2013, I have become a huge advocate for Make-A-Wish® and its message. During one of the darkest times of our lives when Bella—just 5 years old at the time—was going through chemotherapy, the wish experience was by far the happiest I had seen her.
There’s real power in a wish and I wholeheartedly believe it.
In July of 2013, Bella's wish to go to DisneyWorld was granted. The entire family was sent to Orlando for a week away from chemotherapy treatments and doctor visits. For the week, Bella was able to focus on just being a 5-year-old.
We stayed at Give Kids the World Village, a 84-acre nonprofit storybook-themed resort, that hosts a lot of wish families during their time in Orlando and provides them with a place to stay, relax, and enjoy time as a family free of charge. During our week in Orlando, we went to all four DisneyWorld parks and Universal Orlando Studios. Both theme parks truly treat wish kids like royalty - we were able to skip lines and meet characters and even got to go backstage for some of the shows! One of our favorite parts about DisneyWorld in particular, is that throughout the parks they have what they call "wish lounges," these spaces that are tucked away from all of the hubbub of the parks and give wish kids and their families a quiet place to rest for a few minutes.
Bella loved meeting the minions at Universal and hanging out with the princesses at Magic Kingdom. She especially loved having whatever she wanted for dinner at Give Kids the World every night, which pretty much meant spaghetti with a side of...spaghetti. After all, she's the real princess!
It's hard to put into words the real impact of Bella's wish experience. It not only provided Bella with a chance to just be a little girl, it also provided my parents with a chance to breathe and relax themselves. It also brought us together as a family. I truly cannot thank Make-A-Wish® enough for granting Bella's wish. An unforgettable and transformative experience for Bella and all of us.
Traveling to DisneyWorld with Bella and having that experience as a family sparked a love for Make-A-Wish®. This love and appreciation then ignited advocacy. Over the years, I have spent countless hours sharing the message about the incredible organization and all they do for children battling critical illnesses. I have volunteered at events, participated in the 28.3 mile Trailblaze Challenge, and started a benefit concert in college that to this day has raised over $31,000 for Make-A-Wish® Central & Western North Carolina.
A lasting impact
I am forever grateful for Make-A-Wish® and all they have done for Bella and my family. The organization provided Bella (and myself) with a transformative experience and gave her a chance to just be a kid again. The joy I saw on Bella's face during that week in DisneyWorld gave me peace of mind during the scariest of times.
That joy I saw is why I continue to give back.
That joy is why I go out and speak about Make-A-Wish® and volunteer.
That joy is why I decided to make the organization the focus of my capstone project. I wanted to create a resource that can be used to get the message out to more people and not only encourage, but inspire, people to get involved and give back.
This project is dedicated to Bella and all of the wish kids out there fighting their fight.