A rock band jam with her aunt. Silent moments at the Give Kids the World Chapel. These are the special memories that Erika, now 26, and her mom remember most vividly from her wish to Walt Disney World® in 1992.
Erika was only three and a half when she was diagnosed with leukemia. She underwent more than three years of chemotherapy and had to complete much of her early schooling at home so she didn't risk getting sick from classmates. A friend of her mother's who was a waitress at King's Restaurant asked if she could refer Erika to Make-A-Wish.
After Erika was qualified for a wish, her mom asked her what she would like to do for her wish. Erika immediately said to meet Mickey Mouse. Her family had planned a trip to Walt Disney World before, but had to cancel it after Erika was diagnosed with cancer. Erika's wish was her chance to go to this magical park and meet the famous mouse.
Before her wish was granted, a special party was held in her honor. Disney characters arrived at her house with cake to celebrate her wish coming true. Then it was off to Florida for a magical week with family. Erika's mom said, "It was very meaningful for Erika that her grandparents and aunt were able to go with us."
Two special moments stand out for Erika and her family. One moment was when Erika and her aunt put on a fun show for her parents and grandparents with inflatable guitars. Another came when Erika and her family visited the chapel at Give Kids the World. Erika was a Precious Moments collector and the chapel was full of them. She and her family shared a special moment as she pointed out the ones she had.
"There was something in that chapel that put you at ease," said Erika's mom.
Although more than 20 years have passed since her trip, Erika and her family still pull out the photos of her wish. Now 26, Erika recently joined the Support Services Team at the Make-A-Wish Pittsburgh office and will start taking online classes in the fall through Penn State University to earn her Bachelor's Degree in Business Management. She also organized a Jammin' for Wishes concert that raised $1,763 for Make-A-Wish earlier this year.
"Make-A-Wish has always been near and dear to our hearts," said Erika's mom. "But after she got her wish, it just meant so much more."