I wish to go to Disney World for an Imagineer experience
Two weeks before he was due to start his junior year of high school, Dylan was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. “It really came out of nowhere,” says his mother, Roni. “It came as a huge shock to everybody.”
The week prior, he’d been performing in musicals and riding on roller coasters at Six Flags. “He seemed totally fine,” says Roni, “and then all of the sudden, he wasn’t.”
Early on his treatment, Dylan learned that he qualified for a wish. “My eyes widened, and I perked up in my seat,” he says. “Hearing that after getting the worst news possible, I just felt so hopeful and so excited.”
About eight months into his treatment, Dylan relapsed. “He had to start a whole bunch of horrible chemo all over again and try to get back in remission,” explains Roni. “He was considered even more high-risk. It was really scary.” Unfortunately, this also meant his wish was put on hold until he was well enough to travel.
The following summer, Dylan received a bone marrow transplant. He says this was the hardest part of his treatment. “Physically, it was the weakest I’d ever been, all my hair was gone, I had a feeding tube for the first time,” he explains. “I was on so many pain meds that I was just zonked out the entire time, but I was also still in lots of pain.”
Emotionally, the burden was even heavier for Dylan. During his recovery from the transplant, doctors told him he would require three to six months of isolation. But Dylan ended up in isolation for a full year, missing the entirety of his senior year of high school. “It was a really tough year,” he says.
Dylan is a music theater buff and a Disney superfan. After much deliberation, he determined his wish was to go to Disney World and experience that magic—something he had desperately been missing while battling his illness.
With his parents and brothers, Dylan was soon off to Florida! The experience was magical, from start to finish. “We had a wonderful, wonderful week at Disney,” says Roni. “Being picked up in a limo to go to the airport was just amazing,” says Dylan. “I had never been in one before and I just felt so special.”
At Disney World, Dylan had the amazing opportunity to meet Diego, a Disney Imagineer, who took them on a tour of the new Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge in Hollywood Studios. “I asked a lot of questions,” says Dylan. “He was super cool.”
While every moment was unforgettable, most importantly, the whole family was together to celebrate Dylan’s recovery. “More than anything, the greatest part was being together as a family–being able to go on a trip and just get away,” says Roni.
Today, Dylan’s cancer is in remission. “It’s just a huge relief for me and my family and friends,” he says. He’s now a freshman at college, where he’s studying technical theater and scenic design, learning how to make magic happen on stage.
I wish to go to Alaska to see the Northern Lights
16-year-old Zoe is creative, independent, and loves to travel. When she was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, "we were shocked and devastated," says her dad, Sam.
Thankfully, doctors caught Zoe's lymphoma early, and her prognosis was positive. "Zoe focused on fighting it and trying to put it behind her as soon as she could," says Sam. The family was lucky to work with an incredible medical team at UCSF who kept them well-informed about Zoe’s treatment plan, and with an amazing social worker who introduced them to Make-A-Wish.
When Zoe first learned that she was eligible for a wish, she was overwhelmed with the possibilities that lay in front of her. After much deliberation, she landed on visiting Alaska–she’d always dreamed of seeing the Northern Lights in person. As the trip approached, Zoe’s anticipation began to build.
“As we got closer to the trip, she got more excited,” says Sam. “The wish was definitely a great distraction for Zoe to look forward to.”
In Alaska, the family was taken out by a team of Aurora chasers. While they didn't see the Northern Lights on the first night, day two was huge success, and Zoe marveled at the lights. They were different than she expected—but beautiful.
Beyond seeing the lights, the family enjoyed an adventurous day mushing with sled dogs. "The trip took us somewhere we would not have gone on our own," says Sam, "and we all bonded over the discovery of the lights, and the joy of being on a sled and hiking with reindeer."
For a family that had been through so much, Alaska was a welcome respite from the pressures of day-to-day life. With every detail taken care of, they were able to sit back, relax, and focus on spending quality time together.
“Both the Greater Bay Area staff and the Alaska chapter staff were loving and caring with us,” says Sam. “We felt very well cared for.”