By Donna Heisler, Wish Assistant
My younger brother Joe, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of ALL in August 1993. He was only 3 ½ at the time. After we received confirmation about his diagnosis, things completely changed for my family. Joe was immediately admitted to the hospital, and he underwent a series of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. It was hard for myself and my other younger brother, Michael, to only see Joe when he was in the hospital. He was always so happy and energetic before his diagnosis. The cancer and the treatment really took a toll on him. Joe always braved it with a smile, but we knew that he was in a lot of pain. When Joe finished up his first initial phase of chemotherapy and radiation, his doctor recommended that we meet with Make-A-Wish as soon as possible.
We had two amazing volunteers meet with us at our home in December 1993 right around Joe’s 4th birthday. That is when Joe made his wish to go to Disney World. He was most excited about meeting Goofy, Mickey and Pluto. We were set to depart to Orlando the following month. It was a very cold January, here in Pittsburgh, and when Joe felt that warm sunshine after getting off the plane in Orlando, his face lit up.
As soon as we set foot on the Give Kids the World property, we immediately felt special. They greeted us with gifts and smiles. As young children who had never been to Disney World, we thought we were already there. At one point, I remember Joe and Michael rolling around on the floor with Chip and Dale. I don’t think I had ever heard Joe laugh so hard.
The next couple days were filled with memories that will last a lifetime. We had not felt this whole since Joe had been diagnosed. I finally had my little brother back. We rode every ride together and snapped pictures with every character we could find.
Because of Make-A-Wish and the wonderful trip they granted for Joe, we as a family felt the power and strength of a wish. It was a week without hospital visits, needles and separation. I believe this gave Joe renewed strength to battle cancer for the next three years. Once we returned from Disney World, we all continued to talk about our trip, and we would pull out the picture books my mom put together. We also gained another family member in Make-A-Wish. They were always reaching out to us to see how Joe was doing, and they would invite him to special events. Joe conquered his cancer and is now 24 years old, working and doing well.
I can’t thank this wonderful organization enough for the priceless gift they gave my family over 20 years ago. It is still something that comes up. That special week will always have a special place on our hearts.
Brittany and Kasey's Wishes
By Leandra Hickman, Northern West Virginia Regional Manager
As a wish sibling, I have been able to personally see the power of a wish – twice. When I was in high school, both my younger sisters were diagnosed with a life-threatening neurological condition. As an older sister, it crushed me to know I couldn't do anything to make them feel better. I couldn't stop the needles, I couldn't stop the tests, I couldn't stop the seizures, and I certainly couldn't stop a brain tumor from growing. I had never felt more helpless and defeated.
Then, I saw an advertisement for Make-A-Wish and, for the first time, I felt like I had the power to actually do something. I sat down with my mom and made a referral online. When volunteers came to our house, they sat down with my sisters and asked them, “If you could go anywhere, be anything, meet anyone or have anything, what would it be?” I watched as my sisters contemplated all the things they could do – anything was possible! They sat at our dining room table – laughing and smiling— and drew pictures of their most heart-felt wishes. For the first time in months, my family wasn't thinking about their condition.
My sisters had the most amazing wishes for a trip to Walt Disney World® and a swimming pool, but we actually all gained so much from that experience. We felt like a normal family again, instead of a family plagued by fear and uncertainty. We had hope and I will forever remember that Make-A-Wish provided us with that feeling when we truly needed it.