ASHFORD – Courtney is an outgoing, giggly and sweet 8-year-old who loves listening to pre-teen singing sensation Billy Gillman, making arts and crafts and spending time with the family dogs Tinkerbell, Baby and Sketer and her fish named Penelope. Courtney does not appear any different than other happy children her age, but looks can be deceiving. In June of 1997 doctors discovered that Courtney had a brain tumor. “Sometimes she gets bad headaches,” said her mother Joannie. At such a young age it can be scary being hooked up to monitors and undergoing MRIs. Even after everything that Courtney has been through her mother said, “She has such a good spirit.”
Courtney’s name was forwarded to Kids Wish Network, a charity that makes dreams come true for children with life threatening illnesses by one of its professional fundraisers. A wish coordinator spoke with Courtney and found out that she wished for a trip to Disney World. “She has always wanted to go,” said her mother. “She dreamed of meeting Mickey Mouse.” Quicker than Courtney could say bibbiddi bobbiddi boo, her wish coordinator created a wish for Courtney that she would always remember. Soon Courtney and her family would be taking a vacation to Florida to experience the fun of its many theme parks, and to share special moments at Give Kids the World in Kissimmee, a resort catering to the unique needs of families who have children with life threatening illnesses. To make the wish even more special, a second and fourth grade class at Twin Lake Elementary School in Michigan also became involved in making Courtney’s dream come true. As part of an educational project, students of Mrs. Bancuk and Mrs. Chupp wrote businesses to attain donated merchandise for Valentine gift bags that they were selling to raise money for Courtney’s wish. The classes also sent her pictures and letters wishing her a fun-filled trip.
Her mother said, “Courtney’s favorite thing at the resort was riding the carousel. She also enjoyed several banana splits at the ice cream parlor. It was wonderful for our family to meet people from all around the world.”
The family visited The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, MGM, Animal Kingdom and Sea World. “When we first arrived at the Magic Kingdom we were greeted by all the Disney characters and Courtney got to have her picture taken with them,” said her mother. Courtney said, “My favorite was Cinderella!” Courtney also received a special pin to wear so that her family could ride all of the attractions without having to wait in any lines. “We were treated so special,” said Courtney’s mother. “Ariel from The Little Mermaid told Courtney that she would be looking for her during the SpectroMagic parade. That evening Ariel actually spotted Courtney and blew her a kiss. Courtney just turned around and gave me the biggest smile. Seeing her so happy was my fondest memory of her wish.” Courtney giggled and said, “All of the characters were waving at me!”
“Our wish coordinator was so helpful to us,” said her mother. “Courtney’s wish was everything that she expected and more and more. She is still talking about it.” While Courtney will still face the uncertain challenges of dealing with her illness, just like her idol sings, she now knows that with her One Voice she can Dare to Dream and have her wishes 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 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.