Five-year-old Kanilea loves relaxing in her bouncer, and the only thing that makes it better is when she gets to spend time with the people she loves. Although she’s nonverbal, her excitement shines through her bright smile and animated hand gestures when her family and friends gather around.
“When people ask me what the coolest wish I’ve worked on is, Kanilea’s wish always comes to the top of my mind,” said wish granter Cara. “Working with Kanilea, I learned so much about how to communicate with non-verbal children, and even though she couldn’t verbally communicate with us, that didn’t stop her from communicating her excitement for being around people.”
Kanilea was born with a rare, complex genetic disorder, which has caused her to be sensitive to light and prone to seizures. Although Kanilea could not explain what would make the most impact on her life, Cara and fellow wish granters Cyndi and Sheri worked together with her parents to create the perfect wish.
If there is anyone who knows Kanilea, it is super-mom Zellie. She spends her days caring for Kanilea and has even begun taking courses in special education to assure that she provides the best environment and care for her daughter. So, when it came to Kanilea’s wish, Zellie knew exactly what she would want: an ADA swing set. The swing set would give Kanilea her own special play area where she could be surrounded by the people she loves.
“I was excited for her to get something I couldn’t give her,” said Zellie. “All we want for her is to experience is accessibility.”
Many people in the community came together to work on Kanilea’s wish, including Tardus Wealth Strategies, who adopted her wish. Volunteers then worked to build her a family area with an ADA swing set. They even built a garden with purple foot pedals that Kanilea can use to water the plants.
“Kanilea’s wish is a gift that will last her entire childhood. It was great seeing her big brother on his swing next to her,” said Tanisha Souza, Chief Wealth Coach at Tardus Wealth Strategies. “The entire family could be together as she was having a joyful time. You can’t imagine the feeling.”
Zellie was amazed at how many people were there to support them, and she knew that this experience had impacted not only Kanilea, but so many others. “I think Kanilea senses that she is a part of something great,” she said. “She brings people together, and they see what can be when you take the time to be a part of something bigger than yourself.”
Cara described the impact Kanilea’s wish had on her personally. “The feeling of witnessing the wish reveal party was quite overwhelming,” she said. “Maybe I could describe the feeling in a few words: Rewarding? Touching? Blessed?... But even those words do not quite do it justice. She’s definitely made a bigger impact on my life than I, as a wish granter, possibly made on hers.”
When talking about the wish, Zellie said, “It made Kanilea happy and you could see it. This wish really made an area for us to gather as a family, and as soon as we are all together back there it’s like you never want to leave that moment.”
Make-A-Wish Hawaii would like to thank Tardus Wealth Strategies for adopting Kanilea’s wish. A special mahalo to community supporters like Monica Lau Photography and wish granters Cara, Cyndi, and Sheri, as well, who give their time and talents to make wishes like these possible.