Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Disney Wish Come True

When we first met (then 3-year-old) Carter at A Wishing Place, he was very timid and shy. After all, he had just recently come out of the hospital and thought maybe this visit was going to be like the hospital one.  He soon realized that A Wishing Place was a fun place and hopefully he would declare a wish that would magically come true!

At Carter's declaration, Nikki and I thought we would have some of Carter's favorite foods as he was being tube fed at that time and there was little that he actually could eat. His favorite thing to eat was Ranch dressing. His mom said he put it on everything and even drank it right from the bottle. So that, along with crackers, licorice and some ice cream was served. After playing a game and asking many questions Carter definitely decided he would like to go to Walt Disney World Resort. Carter was so excited to open the door with his key and was amazed  at what he saw when he walked in. He carefully placed his wish in the container and off it went to the Wishing Wizard. Now the wait.......

Nikki and I wanted to surprise Carter with his proclamation that his wish came true so we rented a Mickey Mouse costume (just like the one at Disney World) and Nikki's husband put it on and off we went to Carter's house. We put together a paper chain to help Carter count down the days until his trip. When we first arrived at his house, Carter was a little afraid, but as soon as Mickey starting giving him balloons and presents he warmed up to his special guest. Carter looked at him in amazement and said, “He really has big ears!!”

When the day finally came for his trip, I met Carter's family at the airport and luckily was able to escort them to the gate. Carter looked sad and when I asked what was wrong he said, "I forgot to cut the last chain off”.  I told him it was okay, that he was supposed to keep the last one as a souvenir, so he grabbed my hand and off we ran to see the plane he was going to fly on. The crew was so nice; the Delta Captain let Carter sit in his seat and even wear his hat. The look on his face as he pretended to fly the plane was priceless. 

Once the family returned from Florida it was time to host his Star Raising party. Nikki and I decided we needed to have something to keep the kids busy so I made Mickey Mouse cookies and we bought frosting and candy and the kids had  fun  decorating their own cookies. Nikki copied off some Donald & Mickey pictures and we gave each child their own marker to draw with and save. 

K.C. Williams, the balloon man, was so nice to volunteer his time and come help us out. Each child's balloon that he made was so special and he really interacted with each child in the process. We also watched a short video that chronicled Carter's journey - from the day we met him up to his trip to Disney World. 

But the best moment was the look on his face as he raised his special star up toward the sky. He couldn't take his eyes off of it after that.

This was such a rewarding experience for me and I was so lucky to have Nikki Jeske as my wish partner. She is a wish mom herself and having been through this with her own child, she knew exactly what the family was going through and was able to answer so many Disney questions they had.

Carter is a very special little boy and Nikki and I were so lucky to be able to help make his wish come true.  He will be in our hearts forever.

-submitted by Jan Schalla, Volunteer Wish Granter

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Wish, A Tattoo, and A Memory

One of the amazing things about Make-A-Wish Utah is each child is unique, making the whole process different. The first time I met 16-year-old Alexis I knew this was going to be a wish experience I would remember.

Her second wish was to be an apprentice tattoo artist. So when we were told her that her first wish would come true, we decided to do the proclamation at a tattoo business.

My amazing wish partner Mandi Peterson got to work. She set up with Big Deluxe Tattoos to let Alexis come in for a couple hours and sit with a tattoo artist, as this person was working on a tattoo and explain as they go. During this time they needed to let Alexis know her first wish was going to be given to her. At this point I jumped in and offered my leg for the tattoo. Why not? It's for Make-A-Wish.

We told Mom to bring Alexis to the north parking lot of Sears on State Street, not revealing anything else.

So, Alexis tells us first she was bummed and she thought she was getting a Sears shopping spree that she never asked for. When they pulled up and she saw the Big Deluxe Tattoo sign she was stoked. She figured she got her second wish.

We all went in and Mandi had talked to the owner on pulling it out a bit with the surprise.

They had Alexis sit down with Jr and Randi and start in learning the art. Mike, the owner, came in to the cubicle and said hi and handed Alexis a big basket full of art supplies, Skull Candy, $100 tattoo certificate and more, all items which were bought by the employees at this tattoo shop. Alexis was touched. There were about 12 people standing around waiting for the next surprise. Mike then gave Alexis an amazing picture he drew of a God and had written on it "Your wish to Rome has been granted." Alexis started to cry and cry. It was so amazing, all these "tough" tattoo artists with tears. It once again goes to show it does not matter where you are, you can feel the love others have and so eagerly want to share. What an amazing warm feeling to be a part of.

After all this JR and Randi showed Alexis the ropes of being a tattoo artist, everything from setting up the table and work area to sterilizing everything. They were both so patient and caring; you could tell they wanted her to take in the whole experience, and she was. JR explained every move, starting with the picture and all you do in drawing it etc. from the paint, to the needles.

I wanted a cowboy boot on my ankle, as my Dad always wore cowboy boots. JR started in using the tattoo equipment and explained the whole way how to draw the line, how deep to go, what to look for. I'd ask before Alexis arrived if she could help him with doing the tattoo. He said sure, that  he would have her do just some lines. Well she did some lines on the bottom of the cowboy boot and he was so impressed that later he let her do some of the shading on the middle of the boot. She did about 20 minutes of work on the tattoo with him standing there helping.

It's really not a thing I do everyday, getting tattoos. But to me, this was very touching and moving. First, [it brings the memory of] my father, because of the cowboy boot, and then to have a Make-A-Wish child help with the tattoo, this is not something you do everyday. I hope Alexis will remember this day as much as Mandy and I will; we will always remember it being so epic. When you think that you've gone every place to proclaim a proclamation, think again. Big Deluxe Tattoo you made it possible, to make a lasting impression on this young lady. She cried as she left with her Mom. She said the next day she was still questioning if it was all a dream.

-written by Terri Drashner, Make-A-Wish Utah Volunteer

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

They're Up For the Challenge; Are YOU?

The following entry is a guest entry written by Crystal Walker, winner of the 2011 Urban Challenge Utah.
We have been honored by the lovely people at Make-A-Wish Utah and been asked to write a guest blog about Urban Challenge Utah. This is an exciting thing for us!

We heard about Urban Challenge Utah through a friend who volunteers at Make-A-Wish Utah. She told us about it as soon as she heard because she knows our dream to be on the Amazing Race. She made us swear to sign up. My reasons for being excited were double. First, I love competition. Almost to a fault. Its not even so much about winning but the feel of trying to win is like a drug to me. My other reason was that I deeply love Make-A-Wish. When I was growing up my little sister had leukemia and I can remember very clearly when she got her wish. I remember the wish granters at our house and how special they made her feel. I remember our trip to Disney World and how amazing Give Kids The World was. And I remember looking forward to the Rubber Ducky Derby in the summers. And so many other things that they did that lifted her spirits. I believe, in a huge way, that a person's attitude and positivity have a lot to do with their well-being. And the people at Make-A-Wish do a lot in that area.

LaDayna and I were really excited to be in this competition together. I think the relationship is a lot of the challenge. We work really well together. We don't bicker because we are usually on the same page. It gave us a huge advantage. Having the right partner can make you or break you and we are so lucky enough to have hit the partner jackpot.

After we signed up we started fundraising. Man alive, we were annoying. We hounded people. Pretty sure that we were both unfriended by a few people on Facebook. We just couldn't stop talking about it. We wrote letters to everyone we know asking for donations. We each have a pretty small circle of people and we were counting on them a lot. The build up to the race may have been as much fun as the race.

The day of the race was really exciting. We really had no idea what was going on or what we would be doing. But it didn't even matter. We were just so happy to be there. We were the 1st team there (second to sign up because one of our spouse's teams cut in line!). We almost regretted being there so early. Only because sitting and waiting was pretty torturous.

Once we started going we just went for it. We had so much fun during the race. Some of the things were soo tough, some were just fun, some were things we had never done and never expected to do. Some made us so proud of ourselves. Specifically, boot camp. That was grueling. And when we finished and we were told we had the fastest girl time and one of the faster overall times of the day so far. It was a very proud moment. We couldn't breathe or stand up, but proud!

When we made our way back to the beginning I had no idea where we stood. We had given it our ALL but we knew we weren't the fastest team out there. It felt like forever waiting for them to announce the winners. Now, I said before that we are both really competitive. But there were so many amazing teams there. I honestly didn't think that we had the slightest chance at winning. I was desperately hoping for 2nd or 3rd place though. They announced 3rd place and.... it wasn't us. They announced 2nd place and... it wasn't us. I was CRUSHED right then. I couldn't believe that we didn't even place in the top 3. I think I may have blacked out for a bit. The time between them announcing second and third is gone to me. I didn't even hear them call our name. All of the sudden La Dayna was shaking me and I just started screaming. I can't describe it; it was just unexpected and wonderful.

We won a trip for 4 for a week in Akumal, Mexico, courtesy of Shamrock Plumbing. I had never been to Mexico; I didn't even have a passport. I had to apply right away. We set our trip up for February. We figured it would be a great time, dead of winter and we would want to get out of the cold and into the warm by then. Anyone in Utah can tell you that we have barely had winter this year so it wasn't quite the transition we expected.

There were 6 of us who went, both of us and our significant others. Plus our friend who told us about the challenge and her husband. It was the time of our lives. Best vacation I have ever been on. We stayed in Casa Savasana; the house was amazing. We spent time in the ocean, we ate such tasty food and we had ~a couple~ of drinks. We went on ziplines and took a daytrip to Cozumel. We saw Tulum and visited the beach there - the most beautiful beach ever.

Going on this trip was an experience of a lifetime. I went somewhere I had never even heard of and loved every inch of it. I went with my very best friend and grew to love her even more. And we WON it! Knowing that we worked hard and earned that win makes it even sweeter!

Just in case anyone has any doubts, we have every intention of winning again! But bring your best; we like a challenge!

Are YOU up for the CHALLENGE? Click here to register today!

(photos courtesy Geoff Linville, Steve Turner and Russ Coover)