Make-A-Wish works to cut backlog of “wishes” to Disney World
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For more than 40 years, one of the most popular “wishes” granted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America is a trip to Disney World in Florida.
Critically ill children and their families are again making that coveted trip, now that travel has opened up again. But there’s a major backlog. When the pandemic drastically slowed down travel, many “wish” kids found themselves on a Disney “wait list.”
Kristen Terry and her son Cayden, 11, live in Morrisville, North Carolina. By 2020, their family had already been waiting for Cayden’s trip to Disney for months.
“When the pandemic hit, it changed everything,” Kristen.
“And ruined it for me!” said Cayden. “So many times, Mom was like, ‘Cayden, we may be doing the wish trip soon.’ Nope!”
Cayden crossed his legs and sat up straight when he told his story. He has had to grow up fast, surviving 10 surgeries for a congenital heart defect. And he’ll probably need more.
Kristen said her son waited more than three years for his Disney trip.
“There were a lot of times we would get an email asking, ‘Hey, you guys still want to do this trip or do you want to change your wish?’” Kristen said. “We had thought about it.”
But the prospect of changing his wish didn’t sit well with Cayden.
“I was just like, I wanted to go to Disney World,” he said. “That has been one of my dreams for a long time.”
Chris Winter, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish Eastern North Carolina, said there are more than 400 children in his region alone waiting for their “wish” to come true.
“More than half of our wishes are Disney wishes, and specifically also travel wishes,” Winter said. “That, as you can imagine, was one kind of wish that was most impacted by the pandemic.”
Make-A-Wish had to encourage children to choose something else during the pandemic. Some kids went for shopping sprees; others were happy to get a puppy. Wishes for new pets increased by almost a third.
But a lot of kids held out for that Disney trip. Frances Hall, the chief mission advancement officer for Make-A-Wish America, said with travel possible again, the organization has been chipping away at the long waitlist for Disney.
“They’re really providing a record number of wishes for us,” she said. “If we have a wish that needs to go this summer, such as a rush wish, we’re able to get that wish in.”
That is good news for thousands of critically ill children and their families. And for Cayden. He, his parents and baby brother finally made it to Disney World this year. Kristen said that Cayden talks about it all the time.
“He kept saying that all of his surgeries have finally paid off,” she said.
“It was really nice,” Cayden said. “We went to the pool, we watched a movie, we went to do some rides there, I went horseback riding.”
And, Cayden said, it was worth the wait.
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