So far, Madilyn’s life has been anything but smooth sailing. As an eight-year-old diagnosed with a metabolic disease, Madilyn is constantly overcome with waves of concern about her health. To keep these bad thoughts away, she spends her time collecting toy dolphins – which are her absolute favorite animal. When Make-A-Wish® volunteers surprised Madilyn at her home in Williamsport, PA, it didn’t take long for her to decide on her most heartfelt wish. Madilyn, who wants to study aquatic animals, wished to spend one-on-one time with the creatures she is so passionate about: she would be a marine biologist.
Madilyn and her family arrived at their accommodations in Key Largo, Florida, ready to splash into their dolphin adventure. Madilyn was bursting with excitement on her first day at Dolphins Plus Bayside, a marine wildlife education facility, where she was given the opportunity to swim with dolphins. She worked one-on-one with an experienced animal trainer doing various activities, including learning about marine mammal behavior, how to care for dolphins and how to prepare their food – she became an expert at measuring how many fish each dolphin was fed.
Finally, Madilyn was ready for her wish to come true. She held her breath as she was lowered into the water to meet a special dolphin named Leo. Smiling from ear-to-ear, Madilyn looked up at her mother and said, “I am so glad I made this wish.” Madilyn was smitten with Leo, who took her on some thrilling rides through the water. Madilyn explained that she and Leo had things in common. She stated, “We both like fish and finding things, but most of all we both have health problems. Leo has breathing problems, and he needs a lot of care, and he takes medicine, just like me.” Bonding with the beautiful dolphin was something Madilyn would never forget. As her mother said, “Madilyn’s joy was palpable.”
Madilyn happily returned the next day to swim with her dolphin friends again – this time with more confidence. She even met two sea lions named Grommet and J.J. According to Madilyn, “Grommet gave wet kisses and felt like a wet dog!” She and her family were excited to finish off Madilyn’s wish experience with a glass bottom boat tour, which gave them a glimpse into the peaceful undersea world. Madilyn’s eyes radiated happiness as she took in all of the beauty of marine life.
Madilyn’s wish-come-true was an unforgettable experience. Interacting with the beautiful animals that she was so passionate about strengthened her positive spirit and energy. Now, instead of being overcome with waves of concern for her health, Madilyn is overcome with waves of the joy she felt as she sailed through the water with Leo. She can treasure the memories that she created in Florida with her family forever. As Madilyn’s mother tearfully expressed, “The family is forever grateful that we were able to have this experience together. We were strengthened as an already very tight unit.”