Wish kid Gaby has always loved Minnie Mouse. The Disney character’s happy disposition and red and white polka dot dress gave Gaby something positive to think about when she was in the hospital battling cancer. And what she wished for more than anything was to meet Minnie in person.
Gaby’s mother Yolanda initially heard about Make-A-Wish Hawaii from Gaby’s medical team, including child life specialist Wendy Hickman-Miller and pediatric hematologist and oncologist Dr. Tonya Kratovil at Tripler Army Medical Center.
“We heard about Make-A-Wish Hawaii when Gaby was doing her first phase of treatment at the hospital,” said Yolanda. “Her child life specialist mentioned it was a great foundation with a beautiful job of helping kids and families during this hard journey.”
Hickman-Miller said this type of conversation is not uncommon in her work, and her team mentions Make-A-Wish to all of the children they treat who would be eligible.
“Having the discussion about the possibility of the family having an experience outside of the hospital and to perhaps do something that they’ve never experienced before is an amazing feeling,” she said. “When families are at their lowest, it’s wonderful to tell them they can look forward to escaping reality and go have fun.”
Kratovil echoed Hickman-Miller’s thoughts. “It’s nice to help them to dream big. It gives them something to look forward to and to get away from the chemo and the doctor visits and the pokes,” she said. “And the doctors all have fun with the wish too!” she added.
Medical professionals who refer children to Make-A-Wish have a huge impact on wish kids like Gaby. Research shows that children who have their wishes granted build much-needed physical and emotional strength to fight their illness. The wish experience can help replace feelings of fear, sadness, and anxiety with confidence, joy, and hope.
This was definitely the case for Gaby, whose wish to meet Minnie Mouse recently came true.
“Having this experience made her forget about her long journey over the past two years,” said Yolanda. “She has been so happy and keeps saying her wish trip was the best and that she had a great time.”
The experience has also been rewarding for Gaby’s medical team. “Gaby has this ability to light up a room,” said Hickman-Miller. “She’s still wearing her Disney gear and talking about her trip. It was really special to her.”
Hickman-Miller and Kratovil encourage other medical professionals to be proactive in referring children like Gaby to Make-A-Wish and to always check when unsure whether or not a child would be eligible. “There are still so many others who could benefit,” said Kratovil, who has personally referred roughly 50 local wish kids. And, as Kratovil can attest, being the first step in making a child’s wish come true is something truly special. “It’s great because I’m usually the first step in telling wish families bad news, so it’s nice to be able to offer up some hope and some fun.”
Learn more about the referral process here