On a national level, Make-A-Wish® and Disney have had a longstanding partnership in making life-changing wishes come true for children battling critical illnesses. In fact, Disney-related wishes are the most requested wish type nationwide. A number of these wishes take place right here in Hawaii at Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, where nearly 300 local and visiting wish keiki experience the aloha spirit and Disney magic together for unforgettable wishes come true.
We recently followed six of these families, who had traveled to Oahu from all over the country, as they experienced a day of character meet-and-greets, Moana makeovers, family snorkeling, and a Hawaiian greeting at Aulani.
We first got to know 7-year-old Maria of Washington and her family, who began the day meeting Mickey Mouse himself. The experience marked the “light at the end of the tunnel” for Maria’s family after a two-year battle with leukemia. “It has almost brought tears to my eyes a couple times…just seeing her essentially get to act normal and do things normal kids are able to do,” explained wish dad John. After lots of hugs and dancing with Mickey, Maria summed up her experience perfectly: “I’m just happy I’m here!”
We next followed 5-year-olds Lena of Illinois and Divine of Colorado as they participated in Moana makeovers, a lei po’o class, and even a parade at Beyond Painted Sky.
Lena’s mother, Jenn, teared up after the experience, explaining, “To know that she gets all this joy and all those memories…it’s everything.”
As we made our way through the resort, we soon found ourselves in the company of two more wonderful families about to enjoy a little snorkeling at Rainbow Reef. Ten-year-olds Madison of New Jersey and Kalaila of South Carolina spent the afternoon swimming with tropical fish and playing in the water with their families.
Kalaila’s dad Marcus explained that the entire wish experience had given their family much-needed time together to celebrate the end of Kalaila’s treatments and her “big dream to come to Hawaii.” He said, “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and a wish has certainly been granted.”
Sixteen-year-old Davide was the final wish child we met at Aulani, and we witnessed the joy of his arrival after a long flight from New York, knowing the week ahead would be filled with just as much magic.
“We know how much families love to experience Disney, and we also know they love Hawaii. What better place to experience both of those than at Aulani, where we really bring the Aloha spirit and Disney magic to life?” says Nikki Moreno, Public Affairs Director at Aulani. “Our goal with this partnership overall is really to bring wish families together and allow them to make memories they can enjoy and remember for years to come.”
Make-A-Wish Hawaii would like to thank Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa for its continued partnership in making life-changing wishes come true for wish kids and their families.