It’s inevitable that Phoenix culture is a constant emphasis on the 100-plus-degree weather and the scrubby landscape. Living here necessitates initiation into the particulars of ancient cacti and learning to pronounce saguaro without the “g” to avoid being seen as an uncultured newbie. Year after year, I began to anticipate the long stretch of haboobs, monsoons and general storminess of summer with the overly dramatic response to rain that most parched long-suffering Phoenicians tend to have.
Considering all of this, it seemed fitting when I heard that the Make-A-Wish Arizona chapter had granted a wish to provide 11-year-old Lucas with that essential “Arizona pool” experience. Owning a pool in the desert can be both a blessing and a curse, as it never needs to be heated yet sometimes it’s so hot outside that sitting in chlorinated water reminds one of an uncomfortably warm bath.
The thing about Arizona is that unlike the swampy morass that is Florida, the landscape itself invites anyone who inhabits it to seek out the gritty, barren scenery. The mountains of the valley loom above our day to day lives as reminders of a Precambrian oceanic past and to look upon them and the cloudless sky stretching for miles is one of the true upsides of living in the desert. Being unable to enjoy the browns and oranges of the Phoenix scenery because of an inability to swim or interact with the outside world would be frustrating in this climate.
Make-A-Wish Arizona’s record setting 355th wish provided Lucas with a backyard splash pad that will last him for many joyful summers. Living with life-threatening lung disease and cerebral palsy, Lucas is unable to swim safely in his family’s pool, so the splash pad is a perfect place for Lucas to play in the water in a manner that can give him some measure of independence.
Lucas’ splash pad is a genuine desert oasis, complete with umbrella, fountains of shooting water, personalized decorations and cushioned flooring. It’s another example of how a child’s wish can creatively approach the limitations of their environment, enabling them to “play” in the true sense of the word.
One last thought on the Valley of the Sun: No matter where I’ve traveled in the United States and around the world, I’ve never seen a sunset as breathtaking as the fiery reds, pinks, purples and golds that take over the sky in Arizona almost every day (not even the famed sunset over Oia in Santorini could compare – I guess you could say I’m biased). I live in a state of unexpected beauty, and it puts a smile on my sun-weathered face to think that Lucas can leave the confines of his home to enjoy the splendor I too often take for granted.
Wishes often require creative re-imaginings of a child's reality and in the past volunteers have helped wish kids find new ways to navigate their environment or bring characters to life. Even when a child's condition prevents them from full communication, Make-A-Wish experiences bring joy to their interactions with the world.