LACEY-Although very shy for a teenager, 14-year-old Whitney has quite a lot in common with other young girls. For example, she enjoys country music, eating chocolate, cheering on her favorite baseball team, and spending time with her cat. Unfortunately, Whitney’s life is far less carefree than most of her peers. At 11-years-old she was diagnosed with fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva or F.O.P. This extreme disorder causes her soft connective tissue, such as muscle, tendons and ligaments to turn to bone. Over time, Whitney will be immobilized because most of her joints will be permanently locked. “Her rib cage is fused together, so her lungs are unable to expand like they should,” said her mother, Carmel. Flare-ups also cause intense pain and she has to rely on a wheelchair or a walker when this happens. “Her condition makes her tired, but she is very upbeat and matter of fact about her disease; she doesn’t feel sorry for herself,” Carmel said.
So when Wish Coordinator Terri McConn of Kids Wish Network heard about Whitney and her wish to go to Disney World in Orlando, Terri quickly got her an invitation to hang out in the sun. Not only would Whitney and her family get to enjoy Disney and other exciting Orlando amusement parks, they would soon be sharing special moments at Give Kids the World in Orlando, Florida, a magical resort full of laughter, joy and hugs, catering to the special needs of families who have children with life threatening illnesses. “The resort was so much better than we imagined it,” Carmel said. “We didn’t think it could be that good. We had no idea there was such a place.”
While at Give Kids the World, Whitney and her family ate at the resort’s whimsical restaurants, like the Ice Cream Parlor, which was her favorite place in the park. “She also enjoyed the pools because they are fairly shallow,” her mother said. “ She can’t move her arms very well so in these pools the water was never over her head and she felt safe.” While at the park, Whitney ‘came out of her shell’ and even made a few friends. “Whitney almost feels grateful about her disease because she met so many other kids there that are worse off than she is,” said Carmel. “It’s a good experience for the kids. She is so sweet and concerned about others; she really understands other people’s problems and pain.”
During their vacation, the family enjoyed many amusement parks, including Walt Disney World theme parks, Universal Studios and Sea World. Whitney loved meeting all the characters and taking pictures with them. “The parks weren’t crowded and she had a chance to get most of their autographs,“ her mom said. All attractions were compliments of Give Kids the World and Kids Wish Network.
“It was such a nice trip,” said Carmel. “She experienced so much and we couldn’t have asked for more. Everything was just so awesome for her. We’d like to thank Kids Wish Network for the wonderful dream they gave Whitney.” Now this young lady who feels blessed even in the face of such adversity can look back on a time when not only did she spread her love to other sick kids, but also had her own wish come true.
Kids Wish Network is a nationally recognized non-profit organization whose mission is to grant wishes to children who have life-threatening illnesses. If you know of a child between the ages of 3 and 18 who may be in need of Kids Wish Network’s wish granting services, please call (813) 891-9374 or toll free at (888) 918-9004. You can also visit Kids Wish Network’s web site at www.kidswishnetwork.org.