And yes, a pink unicorn fairytale and a pirate’s treasure hunt were among reasons wish kids chose to explore Hawaii in 2014. Addison, 6, braving a battle against acute lymphoid leukemia, came all the way from Georgia to encounter a unicorn – a sight that brought immeasurable joy when a real unicorn pranced in front of her during a fairytale played out by local actors at Oahu’s serene Waimea Valley. For Adam, 8, battling a malignant neoplasm, his wish trip to Hawaii unlocked a fantasy treasure hunt with the pirates of Hawaii Pirate Ship Adventures LLC, who took him on board as their new mate.
Hosting wish families is how our chapter was founded in 1982. Back then, board members met wish children at the airport, hosted them at their homes and gave them personal tours of the island. Then in 1984, we granted our first wish to a Hawaii child, recognizing that some 100 keiki (kids) in our own islands are newly diagnosed each year. The result? We have grown into a chapter dedicated to granting the wishes of children in our own state, while maintaining our roots of sharing aloha with visiting wish kids.
Despite the popularity of wishes to come to Hawaii, our team treats each individual wish as a unique opportunity to lift a sick child’s spirits. We plan one-of-a-kind itineraries that tap into their deepest passions. It starts with “why.” What is about Hawaii that has helped them get through treatment thus far, and how can we bring this vision to life?
Sometimes that “why” is a vision to see a unicorn, swim with Oahu’s stunning Mermaid Kariel, or surf with Kauai’s own world-famous, professional surfer Bethany Hamilton. In January, we held our 2nd annual Make-A-Wish Hawaii Surf Camp with Bethany Hamilton, where we granted the wishes of 10 brave girls whose shared No. 1 wish was to hang loose with their idol, Bethany! For them, this pro surfer’s story of resilience is one they can relate to.
Others are drawn to Hawaii’s rich history. For Carl, he came to Hawaii to re-enact World War II. A wish to “crash land and survive on a deserted island?” No problem, thanks to all branches of our U.S. military stationed on Oahu who made Carl’s wish come true. For Colin, he set sail back in time with the Polynesian Voyaging Society on The Hokulea – a cultural treasure that Native Hawaiians used to move from island to island using the stars as a guide.
Whatever the reason, one thing that all wish families gain from their time in Hawaii is a glimpse of the Aloha Spirit. Families consistently report how blown away they are by how local businesses and the Hawaii community went above and beyond to welcome their ohana (family) with open arms.
We currently have more than 200 partnerships with local businesses, hotels, and tour activity companies statewide who help us give these families memories to last a lifetime – memories that mark a turning point in their battles to overcome and start anew.
If you're eager to read more about wishes in Hawaii, be sure to visit the Make-A-Wish Hawaii blog!