Make a Wish Foundation

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Cut-Out of Terminally Ill Boy Allows Him to Travel With Make-A-Wish

Update: We’re saddened to learn that Levi passed away on July 24, 2015. If you’d like to send your condolences to his family, you can visit his Facebook page here. You don’t hear Make-A-Wish stories like this every day. When the Make-A-Wish Foundation offered Levi Mayhew the opportunity to have his wish granted in 2014, the 6-year-old from Martinsville, Indiana, instead donated his wish to Emma Broyer, a 10-year-old at his school. Levi has peroxisomal biogenesis disorder in the Zellweger spectrum of disorders (PBD-ZSD), a condition with no cure or treatment. He can’t walk or talk and is losing his sight, according to his mom, Rebecca Drake. But Emma wanted Levi to still experience whatever adventure Make-A-Wish ended up sending her on — so she made a cut-out Levi so he could come along. The two hit up Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Then, Levi’s wish and Emma’s kindness skyrocketed — family and friends began asking for “flat” Levis to take on vacation, to work and just out and about. That soon escalated to complete strangers requesting to take flat Levi on their own adventures. Demand got so high that Make-A-Wish made a printable version of Levi so anyone could take him along on a trip. “It’s a whole range of emotions,” Drake told The Mighty in an email. “Heartwarming that the story has touched so many lives, heart-wrenching because of the circumstances, pride because these two children are so selfless, loving and giving. It’s just beautiful and heartbreaking. I don’t have the words to describe it.”   Unfortunately, in the last few months, Levi’s condition has worsened, according to his GoFundMe page. Doctors predict he has about six more months to live. Drake still shows him the adventures people from all over the world are taking him on, though. “Levi is very interested in other people,” Drake told The Mighty. “I show him pictures, the things people have sent him, read him letters, emails and cards. He’s very alert during those times. I wish I knew what he was thinking!” If you’re interested in taking flat Levi out with you, you can post your picture with him on his Facebook page, LovingLevi. You can also visit LovingLevi.com for more information on Levi and Zellweger spectrum. h/t Reddit Today I Learned Want to celebrate the human spirit? Like us on Facebook . And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night .

Stories Like This Are Why Make-A-Wish Is Necessary

I’ve been a volunteer with the Make-A-Wish Foundation for a year and a half. I’ve granted a few wishes for kids. Life-changing wishes. You may not think a trip to Disney World is that big of a deal, but for a wish child and his or her family, it is. (Not to mention, their trips are not like yours. They get the red carpet rolled out… times ten!) If you want to see an example of why wishes aren’t just nice but necessary – watch this story I covered about a Make-A-Wish reunion 25 years in the making. This is the story hard to put into words: Bryan Stepanenko and Norm Engel made a lifelong connection that started 25 years ago when Bryan was just 4 and living with leukemia. The duo met again recently to celebrate another milestone. It all started at the Make-a-Wish Foundation in 1989. Bryan had one wish — to go to Disney World. Engel, a firefighter, granted that wish and made quite an impact on the young man. “As soon as we opened the door, this little wild man is running around, all smiles. You’d never know the kid was sick,” Engel said of meeting Bryan. “His face is always a part of my memories, but also the fire station that he had brought my sister and I to,” Bryan said of Engel. “He showed us some of the trucks. He had us dress up in some of the fire gear.” Two decades later, a letter from Bryan’s dad made its way to Engel at his fire station. “The goosebumps and the tears,” Engel said. “The most defining line was when Bryan’s dad said, ‘We’re looking for Norm Engel. He used to be part of the organization. He was a very big part of our life when my son was diagnosed with leukemia, and I want to let him know that not only did he survive, he’s a happy and healthy 21-year-old firefighter paramedic.’” When Bryan was ready to graduate, Engel was there again with another once-in-a-lifetime surprise: he was going to pin Bryan with his newly earned badge. “I started reading a speech I made, which I thought I’d be able to get through. It was tough. There really wasn’t a dry eye in the house, including us,” Engel said. Bryan is not only trying to help others by working as a firefighter/paramedic, he’s also working on become a doctor and has one year left of med school. He’s also working on becoming a volunteer with the Make-A-Wish foundation. Stories like that are why wishes matter. Norm Engel, Christina Sens, Bryan Stepanenko I’m emceeing “Walk for Wishes” in Miami at Jungle Island on the morning of May 3, 2015. The point of this 5K: To turn your steps into wishes. I have created a team named “Miles of Smiles” — cute, huh? If you are in the area and want to walk or run, please join my team . If you are unable to make it, please donate . Any little bit helps. Want to celebrate the human spirit? Like us on Facebook . And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night .

Keri Pomeroy

To the Woman Who Noticed My Daughter Wearing a Make-a-Wish Shirt at the Zoo

When my daughter, Brooklynn, was 20 months old, she had a two-hour-long seizure and was admitted to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. They ran tons of tests to try and figure out why she had this seizure. They also inserted a G-tube for feeding. Two months later, her doctor called and asked me to come in the next morning. She had some news. I knew there was only one test result they’d been waiting for — Alexander disease, a form of leukodystrophy.  No cure, no treatment. I was told Brooklynn would never walk or talk and to enjoy my time with her. Alexander is a neurological disease that attacks the nerves system. Kids rarely live past 6 years old with this disease. After finding out this info, I researched everything I possibly could. The only researcher for Alexander disease I could find was in Madison, Wisconsin, only two hours from us. Suddenly, I found hope — someone out there wants to find a cure, a treatment, something. When Brooklynn turned 3, I applied to The Make-a-Wish Foundation. Her wish was to go to the San Diego Zoo; she loves animals. In November of 2012, we went to California. We found ourselves in a beautiful place, with a few days of no worries and no doctor appointments. We just lived and did everything Brooklynn loved. On our second day there, we went to San Diego Zoo, where Brooklynn would get a behind-the-scenes tour. We arrived a bit early. Brooklynn was wearing her Make A Wish t-shirt. As we stood there, we started talking to another family. They were super nice people, and we found out they were also from Wisconsin. They asked me what was going on with Brooklynn. I explained Alexander disease to them. You could just see their hearts drop. How could this beautiful, full-of-life child, have something so terribly wrong? They immediately gave me a hug. Brooklynn is one of those kids everyone falls in love with. The lady who we talked with for only momnents reached in her pocket. She pulled out a $20 bill and handed it to my daughter. Brooklynn’s eyes lit up with excitement — “Money for me!”  The generosity of someone we just met made my daughter’s day. She used that $20 to buy a spray fan at the zoo. The little gestures of people go a long way. For all of February, The Mighty is asking its readers the following: Describe the moment a stranger — or someone you don’t know very well — showed you or a loved one incredible love. No gesture is too small! If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please  include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Want to end the stigma around disability? Like us on Facebook . And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night .

This 4-Year-Old Cancer-Fighter Has an Adorable Announcement for Her Best Friend

Violet, 4, and Juniper, 3, became best friends while undergoing treatment for retinoblastoma at Seattle Children’s Hospital, CNN reported. Retinoblastoma is a rare cancer of the retina, according to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. When approached by The Make-A-Wish Foundation, both girls chose to visit Disneyland. Violet’s trip was in December 2013. When Juniper got her wish the following October, the organization offered Violet the chance to share the good news with her friend. In the video below, Violet, dressed as a princess, excitedly breaks the news to Juniper. “Juni, you’re going to Disneyland,” she exclaims. “That’s the best place on Earth, Juni!” In just a week, the sweet video has received nearly 300,000 views. “[Juniper] was super excited to see Violet and she knows what Disneyland is, so she got really excited,” Danielle Ouellette, Juniper’s mother, told CNN. Both girls loved their time at Disneyland and are currently in remission. h/t Reddit Uplifting News Want to celebrate the human spirit? Like us on Facebook . And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night .

These Photos of a Boy and His New Helpful Companion Will Brighten Your Day

Zachary Steinbeiser, 8, has certainly been dealt more than his fair share of obstacles in life. Born with a neural tube defect, which hindered his brain’s development, he’s also autistic and has both ADHD and epilepsy, according to Life With Dogs. But things just got much brighter for Zachary — he now has a bushy-tailed friend to help him tackle the everyday challenges of living with his difficult diagnoses. The thing Zachary wanted more than anything in the world was a dog. So, last month, The Seeing Eye and The Make-A-Wish Foundation teamed up to pair him with one. Zachary and his parents traveled from their home in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, to The Seeing Eye guide dog school in Morristown, New Jersey, where Zachary first met Whitley, a 2-year-old labrador/golden retriever mix. Zachary and Whitley became fast friends, and now Whitley is the latest (and furriest) addition to the Steinbeiser family. “We’re pleased to be able to match the Steinbeiser family with a bright-eyed, furry new addition to their home,” Seeing Eye Director of Canine Development Peggy Gibbon said in a statement, according to Montgomeryville-Lansdale Patch. “Whitley is an exceptionally sweet and loving dog who will give Zachary many years of friendship and devotion.” Photos courtesy of The Seeing Eye. Want to end the stigma around disability? Like us on Facebook. And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.

Watch Disney Princesses Bring Magic to a 3-Year-Old Cancer Patient

Madelynn Nelson, 3, was re-diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma two months ago following a period of remission, WLTX 19 reports. Because Madelynn’s favorite thing in the world is Disney princesses, The Make-A-Wish Foundation had planned to take her to Disney World at the end of the month. Sadly, Madelynn is not responding to chemotherapy and doctors think she may not live long enough to make the trip. So Disney World came to her. On a remarkable night in Irmo, South Carolina, Madelynn and her family received a visit from the Disney princesses themselves. “I have just been praying for us to get to tonight so she can experience it,” Madelynn’s mother, Amanda Nelson, told WLTX. She says her family’s focus is on creating lasting memories with Madelynn and making every day a meaningful one. See footage from Madelynn’s visit with the princesses in the video below: To read more about Madelynn’s diagnosis, click here or search the hashtag #teammadelynn. Want to end the stigma around disability? Like us on Facebook . And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night .

The Moment Pope Francis Made This 11-Year-Old Cancer Patient's Dream Come True

Gracie West, 11, was diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma a year ago, CBS News reported. Since then she’s already had nine rounds of chemotherapy, but she has never lost her positive outlook on life. “My motto is, you have no choice but to be strong, but you can choose to be happy and positive,” she told the outlet. “That’s helped me through a ton of stuff. I have to stay through this. I have to keep going.” Gracie, a Catholic, expressed a desire to meet Pope Francis, and The Make-A-Wish foundation decided to help her do it. The whole family was flown to Rome where she and her brother got to enter a special area and meet the Pope Francis, who kissed Gracie on the head and gave her a blessing. Watch the whole interaction in the video below: Want to celebrate the human spirit? Like us on Facebook . And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night .

Boy With Incurable Condition Goes On Big (Adorable) Adventure

A little bit of joy can go a long way towards helping a sick kid feel better. Gabriel Lavan-Ying, 9, battles an incurable and painful disorder called Ehlers Danlos syndrome, CBS News reported. To give him and his family a much-needed break from hospital visits and daily stress, the Make-A-Wish Foundation helped him become a park ranger for the day at Yosemite National Park. Gabe helped put out brush fires and spent the day in nature, all thanks to an organization that has granted more than 250,000 wishes for sick kids in the past 35 years. “There’s a lot more to this than just sending a family to an amusement park,” David Williams, Make-A-Wish President and CEO, told CBS. “This is not a fluffy, just nice thing that we do. This is really, really important. It is not a dying wish, it is not a last wish. This is a wish that in many cases is going to help them get better.” For Gabe, and the thousands of other children who’ve been granted wishes, the experience is not one that will be soon forgotten. Watch the little park ranger in action, and learn more about the Make-A-Wish Foundation in the video below: Want to celebrate the human spirit? Like us on Facebook . And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night .

Tyler McCarthy

3-Year-Old Who Loves Toy Trucks Operates Real Construction Equipment

A 3-year-old boy from Seaside, California, has battled cancer for most of his life. After getting the all-clear from his doctor, the Make-A-Wish Foundation helped him turn his dream of being a construction foreman into a reality. Doctors found a 3-pound Wilms’ tumor on Renzo Lombardi’s kidney in June 2013. He had surgery to remove the tumor and his left kidney and spent the next 20 weeks undergoing chemotherapy treatment, according to ABC News. In the hospital, Renzo would stave off boredom by playing with his toy trucks. He developed such an affinity for construction equipment that Make-A-Wish organized for him to be an honorary foreman for a day on an active construction site. In partnership with Swinerton Builders and Trinity Properties, the foundation gave Renzo access to the entire construction site of a soon-to-be high-rise building in San Francisco, according to SF Gate. In addition to seeing all of the heavy equipment, Renzo even got to operate a crane (with the help of another construction worker, of course). Make-A-Wish also organized for him to leave his handprints and name on a slab of concrete. “It’s really just awesome to see him,” Renzo’s father, Vince, says in the video below. “He missed out on quite a bit when he was 2. Just being at home and for him to be able to come out and do something like this, to see him smile and laugh and interact has just been really amazing.” Find your Mighty. Like us on Facebook.