Omar has never seen a penguin up close, for instance, though he loves them dearly. Penguins remind him of his own family. They do everything together – swimming, fishing, huddling – just like his mother, brother and stepfather stay by Omar’s side during blood transfusions for his circulatory disorder. He owns all sorts of penguin merchandise, from movies to stuffed toys, and it brings him happiness – but it is just not the same as the real thing. That is why Omar wishes to hug a penguin in real life.
His wish is heard, and before he knows it, he and his family move just like a “waddle” to the zoo. Once there, a handler guides the interaction, letting Omar feed a fish right into the penguin’s beak. It is now ready for hugging. Omar squeezes the king penguin tight in his arms, resting his cheek against its feathers, then gives it a loving peck on the head. After the fateful hug, the handler gives Omar a bucket of stones, and he plunks rocks into the penguin nest one by one, helping them make a cozy home. The night of his wish, he tells his mother, “Mom, I’m very happy, I felt so much love and that the penguin gave me love also when we hugged each other.”
Just like Omar, Avery has not had a full winter experience. Avery grew up in the warm climate of Florida, which means that she has never seen snow before, much less made a snowman. When her case worker tells her family that she may be eligible for a wish because of her Wilms tumor diagnosis, she knows exactly what she wants to do. She receives a shopping spree for all her new winter clothes, including a hot pink snowsuit, to prepare her for the blustery weather ahead. Then, she and her family prepare for their plane ride to Vermont.
When they arrive, Avery and her family build a spectacular snowman complete with carrot nose, black eyes and a top hat. They are sure to take family pictures with her splendid creation, and after that, the fun is far from over. They have plenty of time for other classic winter activities, like riding in a sleigh and having a snowball fight. The newness of it all makes a profound impact. Her mom shares that “Avery’s amazement at the snow was priceless and the memories we were able to create were phenomenal.”
Similarly to Avery, Kenny is from Hawaii, a place that most people consider paradise. But even though his home is a tropical oasis, he lives far away from any sense of winter. It is also the place he receives cancer treatments, and he would like to get away from that for a while. That’s why, for his wish, Kenny asks to see snow at Lake Tahoe, where some of his relatives live.
Kenny and his siblings spend quality time together in their new environment. They ride ski lifts to new heights, coast down the bunny slopes for the first time, and pack snow for the perfect snowball fight. During the downtime, they flop down in the powdery flakes and wave their arms and legs, making snow angels. Kenny tops the whole experience off with a steamy cup of cocoa.
What is a routine day for some means the world to Kenny. His parents write a thank-you note to express their gratitude. “You have made Kenny’s wish to see snow an unforgettable experience that will forever be cherished in our hearts.”
This winter season is far from over, and you still have a chance to help make winter wishes come true. Here’s where you can make it happen!
Photos of Avery provided by Julie Richards Photography.