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Surfs Up, Isabella!

  • Isabella is thrilled to be in Hawaii

  • Isabella surfing

  • Isabella at the beach

  • Isabella at the hotel

  • Isabella imitates the Hawaiian surfer statue

“ It made her feel like she could do anything. ”


- Isabella's mom

For any eight-year-old girl, a trip to Hawaii would be a dream come true. But for Bella, diagnosed with a life-threatening neurodegenerative disorder, a trip to Hawaii was so much more than a vacation. This trip was confirmation that a serious illness won’t define her. She is going to live her life as normal as possible.

Isabella at the Hawaii airportFrom the time she was diagnosed, she wouldn’t let her illness affect her.  In fact, she absolutely hated being called sick.   Throughout her treatment she found motivation in Bethany Hamilton’s story.  Bella said that Bethany, a professional surfer who survived a shark attack in which her left arm was bitten off, showed her that she could be more than just a sick girl in a hospital bed.

When the time came for Bella to decide on a wish, she did not hesitate. Bethany’s inspiration helped her choose a magical wish – a week-long stay in Hawaii where Bella could be normal, and be like the surfer she admires. In February, Bella was whisked away to Hawaii with her mom and dad.  Bella especially enjoyed learning how to surf.

"Bella’s favorite part of her wish was surfing," said Isabella's mom.  "She said it was amazing to be out in the water surfing.  It made her feel like she could do anything."

Bella also was able to swim with dolphins and explore the beautiful island and culture of Hawaii.  For Bella, this time away was just what she needed.  Bella was able to leave her diagnosis at home and be a normal eight-year-old girl.  For Bella's mom, having a moment in time that was magical instead of medical was a blessing.

The joy that Bella’s wish brought her will continue to bring her happy memories and strength.  After returning home, Bella has more of a desire to go to school and not let her illness control her.  Bella’s mom believes her daughter now feels stronger and more positive.

There are so many times in her life that Bella is told she can’t do something or she has to stop doing an activity she is enjoying so she can rest or she will end up in pain and possibly in the hospital. Sometimes it is her body and her fatigue that keeps her from enjoying life. So to have a wish that made her feel like anything is possible is incredible and will help her during the times that she needs to be down to know there are times she can have awesome adventures. Her memory of feeling amazing will help keep her positive during future hospital stays. ”

— Isabella's mom

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