“Once you’re a wish kid, you’re always a wish kid,” says 23-year-old Matthew, from Pittsburgh, PA. Almost 15 years ago, Matthew received his wish to travel to, none other than, the place where dreams come true – the Walt Disney World® Resort. After being diagnosed with a life-threatening heart condition, Matthew’s mother referred him for a wish, which became a true turning point in his childhood.
Rewind to 2002, when life for Matthew consisted of playing his favorite Nintendo games, watching Toy Soldier and cheering on his favorite baseball player, Ken Griffey, Jr. Matthew, his brother and his parents took flight to sunny Orlando, FL, for a week’s worth of wonders. They were immediately welcomed to Give Kids the World Village, a fairytale resort specifically designed for children facing life-threatening health conditions. “Give Kids the World gave my family a home away from home and the chance to make long-lasting memories,” Matthew said. One of his sweetest memories from the resort, like many other wish kids, was being able to indulge in his favorite flavor of ice-cream at the all-hours Ice Cream Palace – even for breakfast!
While discovering the surrounding theme parks, Matthew especially enjoyed exploring Universal Studios. At that time, one of the attractions was “Who wants to be a Millionaire, Play It,” based off of the wildly popular TV game show. Matthew was lucky enough to be picked to sit in the hot seat and play the exciting questionnaire game. It featured accurate game designs like “ask the audience”, 50/50 and “call a friend”, where the contestant’s lifeline will ring a complete stranger on Mickey Avenue. Matthew fondly remembers having the chance to bond with his brother, who is two years older than him, as they adventured around the parks and spent quality time together.
Since having his wish granted when he was nine-years-old, Matthew has graduated from North Hills High School and is currently studying marketing and advertising at Slippery Rock University. He remains an avid baseball fan, gamer and movie connoisseur.
Matthew explained how his wish experience continues to live on in his life today: “Because of Make-A-Wish®, I look at everything differently. You never know what is going to happen, but I’ve learned to be more grateful, look at the bigger picture and make the most of each day.” Matthew looks forward to giving back to Make-A-Wish in the future and continuing to spread the power of a wish.