In December of 2017, a social worker at Lurie presented me with the idea of Reese receiving a “wish”. At this point, I was in a state of mind that I really can’t explain. My 3-year-old had cancer and I was stuck between a world of disbelief and a world of horror. I did NOT understand that my daughter could be this sick. I remember crying after the conversation, after the social worker left the room.
A Wish? Make-A-Wish? No. No no no no no no.
All I knew of the Make-A-Wish Foundation is that they granted incredible wishes to the most deserving of kids, kids who were terminal. I called my husband, “Not a wish!! Reese is not a child who should have a wish?? No, please no.” I remember shaking, sobbing. Not my little girl.
Months passed and Reese was finally able to mount a fight against the beast that is leukemia. As the battles began I learned to accept my new normal being my worst nightmare. Once I was living within my nightmare, it took a lot to rock me. It had to, I was her rock, and my only job was to be strong and see her safely to the other side. It was during this new phase that the idea of Make-A-Wish came to my attention, again. This time, I did my research.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation is an incredible organization that grants incredible wishes to kids who are fighting incredibly large battles. These large battles are categorized as “life threatening”. Not terminal, though many little warriors who receive these wishes have this prognosis. God bless these angels.
Reese qualified for a wish because, as this social worker understood back in 2017, Reese fought the battle of a lifetime. And thanks be to God, she prevailed.
So what happens when you are granted a “wish”?
Reese was assigned WISH GRANTERS. These are lovely, generous volunteers who bring joy to sick little kids by granting big wishes. Reese’s Wish Granters patiently waited a year for us to return from treatment in California, back to Illinois. Upon our return, our two Wish Granters showed up at our house with thoughtful presents for not only Reese, but her two sisters as well. It was a joyful party in our house, a party with a purpose. Our Wish Granters were here to help Reese pick her WISH. Now, we knew they were coming, so we had been prepping Reese. Because Reese had just turned 5, and because she had just spent such a large amount of her life inpatient, her concept of the large world around her was pretty small. Of course she had restrictions to keep her safe. We talked about Hawaii, the Caribbean, flamingos, and of course, Disney World.
Back in January of 2018, we had a trip planned to Florida. It had been planned for months, long before Reese was diagnosed. This trip included a long weekend at Disney. It was at the exact moments my little girls were supposed to walk through that castle that Reese was admitted to the PICU at Lurie. I watched her suffer as I watched the clock, with the knowledge of exactly what fast pass, what Disney princess, what childhood adventure my little girl was supposed to be on. Back in the world that made sense.
Reese picked Disney World. As do half of all wish children. And because Disney is such a huge hub for these little warriors, they have a well oiled machine with one purpose- to create magical moments for these kids. Now, even though half of all wish kids choose Disney World, that does NOT mean that each experience isn’t unique. Disney is whipping up something really special for Reese. I’m not going to tell you now, but if you follow Reese, it won’t surprise you what she asked for!
We continued to work with our Wish Granters and of course the Wish Architects to design Reese’s trip. Then our 30 day countdown started a few weeks ago with a special package that arrived from our Wish Granters, filled with toys for the plane ride. We hung our countdown (a gift from special friends) and took down the first ring. We had a ring countdown once before, as we counted down the days to go HOME to our yellow house. I can tell you, enthusiasm is still alive and well in my house as our magical trip inches closer.
I have read about the importance of experiences, of making memories. I know as much as the next person that it is memories, not things, that get filed as that gift of long term memory. I can’t tell you much about the year I was 9. But I can describe in detail our first trip to Disney World. I can describe it in detail because the whole thing is enveloped in a feeling, joy. Magic. I shared this 1st trip with my mom and dad and my brother, Jos. This is the same team that is joining TEAM REESE for our Make-A-Wish trip. Nonnie and Poppy never left our side, and they wouldn’t think of doing it now. I can’t wait to watch the joy. Magic.
I’ll be sharing more about this magical experience as it unfolds. Go Reese!
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