MAPLE PARK, Ill. – A girl who has been paralyzed from an accident has her wish to visit the San Diego Zoo granted through Kids Wish Network and gets an extra dose of hope as well.
At the age of one, Deanna was injured when a truck backed over her small body, leaving her paralyzed from the chest down. In 2003, she had two rods surgically inserted into her spine in order to stabilize her back. Every year, Deanna must endure two surgeries to lengthen the rods in her spine; her latest surgery occurred just this past March. She uses a wheelchair and sometimes even a golf cart for mobility and also has leg braces.
Deanna’s wish all started with a phone call from a professional fundraiser for Kids Wish Network. This charity, whose goal is to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses, was the one place Deanna’s parents could turn to give her something special in order to help her cope with all that she has dealt with. It was Wish Coordinator, Jen, who learned of Deanna’s wish to visit the famous San Diego Zoo; with the outstanding assistance of some fantastic sponsors, Jen organized a trip to California for Deanna and her family. This trip included tickets to the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld, an awesome amphibious Seal Tour through San Diego, dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe and much more!
Every day for Deanna was packed with fun things to do and Deanna’s mother, Cynthia, was thrilled with what Jen had planned for their family. “The trip was wonderful! Jen did everything above and beyond…we were really pleased with the accessibility of everything.” With Deanna’s wheelchair, Cynthia was a little worried about her daughter not having the chance to experience everything that she wanted, but her fears were allayed when Deanna proudly exclaimed that she could ride every ride at SeaWorld.
Deanna’s visit to the San Diego Zoo was enthralling for her; she was pleased with everything, especially the monkeys. “She loved the monkeys most of all,” said Cynthia. “She made sure that we visited every monkey.” As much as she enjoyed the zoo, Deanna’s favorite part of the trip turned out to be the touch tank in SeaWorld, where every stingray was a palpable and surprisingly smooth friend.
Not only did Deanna have a fun vacation, she also had something very special given to her in an unexpected way: hope. During the day following their jaunt to SeaWorld, Cynthia and Deanna visited Project Walk, a program dedicated to “providing an improved quality of life for people with spinal cord injuries through intense exercise-based recovery programs, education, support and encouragement.” Cynthia had chanced on this program through a news article only a week or two before the family’s departure for San Diego and called to set up a meeting during their wish trip. Once there, Deanna and her family watched therapy sessions and talked to many of the trainers about the work they do and the progress they stimulate in their clients. “Deanna doesn’t get excited about much…she hadn’t experienced much of it before [the accident]…when she saw that other people could help her out, she got excited. There was a glimmer of hope,” said her mother. With a Project Walk center in Michigan, only a few hours drive from their home, this is truly something that Deanna is ready and willing to try. “It’s perfect!” says Cynthia.
Everything was wonderful for Deanna from the park and the zoo to the Project Walk visit and even the dinners at the Hard Rock and the California Pizza Kitchen. “It [the wish trip] was absolutely so enjoyable,” said Cynthia. “We had such a wonderful experience…thank you.”
Kids Wish Network would like to thank the following for helping to make Deanna’s wish extra special: The San Diego Zoo, Sea World San Diego, Days Hotel, Alamo Rent a Car, The Hard Rock Café, Old Town Trolley Tours and the California Pizza Kitchen.
Kids Wish Network is a nationally recognized non-profit organization dedicated to infusing hope, creating happy memories, and improving the quality of life for children. If you know a child between the ages of 3 and 18 who may be in need of its wish granting services, please call 727-937-3600 or toll free 888-918-9004. For more information on Kids Wish Network, visit their website at www.kidswishnetwork.org