Mary meets the dinosaur of her sweetest dreams

NORTH BRANCH – Mary is an adorable and happy 4-year-old who loves the color purple – especially anything and everything Barney. Born a triplet, Mary weighed 2 pounds at birth. At only 3 days old doctors discovered that she had enlarged ventricles, and at nine months she was diagnosed with hydrocephalus and a seizure disorder. Anything but carefee, Mary’s childhood has been a series of hospital visits already having undergone 28 surgeries. While an implanted shunt helps to drain excess spinal fluid away from her brain, all of the operations have taken a toll on her body affecting her motor skills and delaying the level at which she can communicate. Mary sleeps angled in a hospital-style bed to assist the shunt in working more effectively, and uses a stroller because of her difficulty in walking and frequent seizures. Although she has been through so much, according to her mother Cheryl, “Mary never stops smiling. She is always giggling and laughing.”

Mary’s only wish was to meet Barney. She keeps one of her plush purple friends with her at all times and is comforted by Barney during doctor visits and hospital stays. She told her mother that she likes him because he doesn’t stick her with needles. When Wish Coordinator Terri McConn of Kids Wish Network was contacted about Mary and her dream to meet her purple hero, she quickly coordinated a wish of the prehistoric kind. Not only would Mary be meeting Barney and visiting all of the exciting Orlando amusement parks, but the family also would be sharing special moments at Give Kids the World in Kissimmee, a magical resort full of laughter, joy and hugs, catering to the unique needs of families who have children with life threatening illnesses.

Once at Give Kids the World, the family took part in many of its fun activities and enjoyed its restaurants with whimsical children’s themes, pools, an arcade and variety of other special amenities. “She especially loved the all-day ice cream parlor,” said her mother. “Mary wanted ice cream as soon as it opened at 7 a.m.” Even Mary’s parents were given preferential treatment when offered the option to have a date night one evening during their stay. While it was a tempting thought, Cheryl and Donald chose to spend Mary’s entire wish together as a family. “We would never be experiencing this trip again,” said Cheryl. “My husband didn’t want to miss seeing even one of our children’s smiles.”

The family experienced new sights at the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, MGM, Sea World, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Mary’s big moment meeting Barney took place at Universal Studios. “Even though she’s always smiling, her smile was even bigger than usual,” said Mary’s mother. “Mary told Barney, ‘You are my hero.’ She just couldn’t stop staring at him. My most memorable part of Mary’s wish was just watching her face when she was with Barney. It was so amazing to see her. She usually has a problem with one of her legs, but when she was with Barney she started marching.”

It was a wish of many firsts. Cheryl said, “Mary has never been in charge of anything in her life, and it meant a lot to her that she felt in control of what she would be doing during her wish. She was always taking over to make sure that her siblings felt a part of her wish as well. It was amazing because not even once did we hear her say that she was hurting. It was the first time ever that Mary didn’t need any of her pain medications. This was the best thing that could have ever happened to her.”

All attractions were compliments of Kids Wish Network and Give Kids the World. Hotel accommodations on the family’s trip to Give Kids the World were donated by Comfort Inn Valdosta and the Hampton Inn Richmond.

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 a child between the ages of 3 and 18 who may be in need of their wish granting services, please call (813)891-9374 or toll free at (888)918-9004. You can also visit its web site at www.kidswishnetwork.org.

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Kids Wish Network is a charitable organization dedicated to infusing hope, creating happy memories, and improving the quality of life for children having experienced life-altering situations. Kids Wish Network assists children and their families through several key programs.