The Wish Children

We have all heard that it is rare for lightening to strike twice, yet for 13-year-old Abby, the unthinkable happened when she faced two diagnoses of cancer within a 10 year span and, in addition, had two relapses after the first diagnosis.

While still only an infant, Abby was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. During her recovery, her parents Christine and Ryan were vigilant in monitoring her health as they were aware that there was a remote chance that the cancer could return. Sadly, Abby collapsed in October 2015 and was diagnosed with a rare sarcoma of the brain.

Abby’s last year has not been easy. She has endured surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Abby has recently completed her last round of chemotherapy and is now looking forward to planning her wish and for now, is favouring a trip to Turks and Caicos.

Ryan is clearly very proud of Abby. “She’s such a kind hearted girl, she’s such a good girl. She always wants to help others and even fundraises at home for charities,” he says proudly.

The prospect of a wish for Abby leaves Ryan with a deep sense of gratitude.“The wish is huge for us. After everything she has gone through, the wish means a clean slate for her and for us. The Exile Executive fundraising for Abby is putting a huge smile on her face. To know that my daughter is smiling is something that is priceless,” Ryan says.

Emily is a fighter, she was diagnosed with complex heart issues and spina bifida in vitro at 16 weeks during a routine ultrasound.  At birth she was whisked to the NICU as mom Allison watched, terrified.  Emily had open heart surgery on her tiny dextrocardiac mirror image heart.  Then, at the age of 5, she spent four months in hospital where she was given a pacemaker. 

At the age of 4 Emily was told she would have a wish.  Mom knew instantly that a Disney trip to see Elsa from Frozen would be the wish trip for her little warrior.  Allison says “She is so deserving of this wish, she has spent countless months in the hospital, has had several major surgeries and you would never know it by her beautiful big smile and amazingly positive outlook.”  Emily has braces on her legs and is fed by I.V. and yet she is a social butterfly who loves to swim and play Barbies with her friends.  Allison says “the most amazing thing about Emily is that she will always do what she’s asked and never complains.” 

Allison would like to thank donors and supporters like our Exile Executives who give so generously so that little fighters just like Emily can experience a stress free wish, a time when they can put all of their struggles aside and just enjoy an amazing experience with their families.  “Coming up with the funds to take a trip with a sick child is almost impossible.  Travel insurance, special flights, special accommodations, custom meals and transportation are just some of the expenses we parents have to consider when traveling.”  The Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada will provide all that is needed for a perfect wish experience including medical attendants, equipment and insurance to accompany a family on a wish trip.  The generosity of our Exile Executives is why Children’s Wish can provide such an amazing experience to our wish families.

Major sports enthusiast and all around amazing 8 year old, Giacomo can be found at an arena or soccer field or wherever the game is that day. From as early as his mom Rita can recall, Giacomo has been an active child who has been described as ‘non-stop’, so when he was 6 and began complaining of leg pain, his mom assumed that he was playing too hard.  That is, until one day Giacomo announced he couldn’t walk, prompting a visit to the emergency room. Two weeks, multiple tests, re-tests and misdiagnoses, Rita received the call that Giacomo had ALL; acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Giacomo began two years of intense treatment and chemotherapy. Ever the active boy, Giacomo asked constantly if he could go outside to play basketball, taking is IV pole with him, he was not going to let cancer slow him down.

Giacomo’s two years of treatment have left him with side effects including difficulties walking, however, he doesn’t see himself as having any limitations. He has tried out for the AAA hockey team in his hometown and is very excited to be playing rep hockey this year.

Giacomo sees this wish as a chance to say "I beat cancer"’ and is taking his time to decide on what his wish will be. His parents see this wish as a celebration that their entire family survived cancer. "This is closure for us" says Rita, "we are so thankful to the Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada, Ontario Chapter, to their donors and to our Exile Executive. Taking a wish trip would have been impossible for our family of six. People will never understand the impact that treatment has on an entire family, this wish will allow us as a family to close this chapter and allow Giacomo to thank his family for their support. That in itself is a huge gift".

Jack is described by his dad, Trevor, as a country boy. He is only 5 and has already caught fish big enough to make a grown man proud. Jack loves dirt biking, four-wheeling and swimming.

At the age of 2, Jack was getting his nighttime bath when a lump the size of a golf ball was discovered on his side. Within a week, the lump had grown to be the size of a grapefruit. Jack was diagnosed with Wilm’s tumour, a cancer of the kidney and surgery was scheduled to remove the tumour. Unfortunately, surgeons had to remove his kidney. Jack would have to undergo 18 long weeks of chemotherapy and treatment and he also experienced a painful complication of a twisted bowel. Jack battled stage 2 cancer like a warrior, and he won.

To see him today you might not know that he has endured so much. Jack’s wish is to visit Hawaii and stay at the Disney resort. His entire family is excited and his dad Trevor feels so blessed to be able to experience this amazing gift. “We think the world of our Exile Executive and the generous donors who are allowing us, as a blended family, to travel together. To have both of Jack’s families, step-siblings, step-parents and mom and dad travelling together to celebrate his life and battle, is amazing. Everyone on that trip is important to Jack and we will all be together for him. This is truly the trip of a lifetime This is something we could never do without the support of Children’s Wish.”

Ashley lovingly refers to her 3-year-old  daughter as the ‘little ripper.'  The nickname is an endearment for Luna who has an abundance of energy and whose actions often cause Ashley and her husband, Nicholas, to try to hide their laughter when they are trying to be stern with her. 

Recently, Luna's parents walked into her room to discover that she had graffitied all the walls with her distinct style. “We were trying so hard not to laugh. After everything she has been through, I think our perspective has changed so much,” Ashley says.

The 'everything' was a shocking diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) when Luna was just 1 year old. The prescribed chemotherapy treatment was extremely difficult for Luna. “She seemed to be hospitalized on every crucial holiday or celebration like her birthdays and Christmas,” Ashley says.

Thankfully Luna finished her last chemo treatment in March and the family hopes to put the difficult times behind them.

Now, Luna is able to finally be a little girl again and loves to draw, sing, play with her 7-year-old sister, Rubii and spend time with her dog Zoey and cat Clover.

Like many children her age, Luna loves all Disney characters and her favourite book is Purple Cinderella.

As Luna has only recently finished her chemotherapy, the family would like to wait until Luna is able to decide exactly what her most heartfelt wish will be but Ashley is fairly certain that she will choose a family trip to Disney.

Ashley is emotional when she considers how grateful she is to the Children's Wish Exile team that is fundraising on behalf of Luna’s wish. “The wish represents something extremely special to us. It will give Luna an opportunity to have fun and be a kid again. It’s also an opportunity to heal through fun and adventure. The wish will help those difficult times melt away. Thank you so much,” Ashley says.

Andrea feels an extra special attachment to her little girl, Mia, who is 6 years old. When Mia was born, she had hypoxia, a condition in which oxygen is not being adequately supplied to tissues, usually due to an insufficient concentration of oxygen in the blood. Andrea was told that Mia would likely not survive to the next day.

Now, despite many obstacles, Mia is a vibrant member of her family. Due to the lack of oxygen, Mia has severe cerebral palsy which requires constant care; Mia is in a wheelchair, has a feeding tube, requires a lift chair and is non-verbal. Mia is able to communicate through facial expressions and a method of multiple choice questions.

She remains the focal point of a close family dynamic.

“Mia is a very happy little girl. She is always smiling and she will melt your heart when you meet her. She is so sweet and kind,” Andrea says.

Mia loves music (especially One Direction and Taylor Swift), but her one true passion is “Mike the Knight” an animated series that she is completely captivated by and watches every day.

Mia also loves water and likes to be as close to it as often as possible.

Mia’s most heartfelt wish will be to go to Disney, she loves all Disney characters and Andrea feels this wish trip will be an experience to last them a lifetime.

“Every child should get to go to Disney. For Mia to be able to do this with us is truly amazing. I would never be able to provide this opportunity to her or her sister. Thank you so much to our Exile Island Executive and to Children’s Wish for helping to grant Mia’s wish!”

Zander is not defined by his condition, Spastic Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy, but by his general sense of happiness and unflappable spirit. Younger brothers, Tucker and Sawyer adore the 9-year-old as do parents Amy and Jason.

Zander is non-verbal, has a G-tube and also has cortical vision impairment. He loves loud music, really loud, of any kind.  He also enjoys the colour green, the brighter the better. His favourite thing to do is swim and he also loves going really fast in his wheelchair.

Zander’s mom, Amy now stays at home in order to provide him with the consistent and specialized care he requires. Currently, Zander has some medical issues that will need to be addressed and in the future, he will need spinal surgery.

The family is very excited about going to Disney’s Give Kids the World Resort in October. They have never been on a vacation as a family due to the specialized requirements of Zander’s condition so the upcoming trip is a huge event in the family’s life.

“Our ability to travel anywhere is extremely limited and The Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada, Ontario Chapter is able to provide all the specialized care and insurance needed to make this happen. Without Children’s Wish, it’s way too scary and hard to travel anywhere on our own,” Amy says.

“The opportunity for his brothers to experience this wish trip with Zander while he is still with us is an absolute joy for them. They get to go to Disney with him, and see his happiness and share that with him. This is their way of creating beautiful memories with Zander that they will never forget,” Amy says.