OREGONIA — A 19-year-old high school student who is conquering debilitating illnesses had a dream fulfilled this month when she was taken to Washington, D.C., to meet a celebrity and given a tour of the city.
On March 10, Caitlin Smith and her parents, Susan and Bernie, drove to the capital to meet Ty Pennington, star of ABC’s former “Home Makeover: Extreme Edition,” through a special meet-and-greet arranged by the Kids Wish Network.
Caitlin Smith suffers from multiple disabilities including muscular dystrophy and respiratory issues. She must use a wheelchair and is unable to speak. Despite her obstacles, she will graduate in May from Clinton Massie High School, her mother Susan Smith said.
“Caitlin is boy crazy, she loves people who are high energy and she loves comedy,” she said. “Ty meets all three of those criteria.”
Caitlin first became a fan of Pennington when he hosted the decorating TV show “Trading Spaces.” Since that time, she’s watched his TV shows religiously, her mother said.
The Smiths met Pennington at a trade show where he was performing. He spent about 15 minutes of one-on-one time with Caitlin, gave her an autographed book and a $500 gift card to Sears, plus let her sit in VIP seating for his performance.
“She had the time of her life,” Susan Smith said. “She just sat there with her little mouth wide open the whole time.”
The Smiths also were treated to a luxury tour of Washington, D.C., specifically designed for Caitlin. Her favorite stop was at the Arlington National Cemetery to see the changing of the guard.
“Caitlin was just enthralled by the sharp precise movements of it all,” she said.
They received a special honor when the exiting guard scraped his boot in Caitlin’s honor.
“He caught up with us as we were leaving and told us what he had done and why,” Susan Smith said, choking up at the memory. “He said he wanted to give Caitlin a special honor. It meant the world to us. I would say it was comparable to meeting with Ty.”
The only negative to the experience was the drive, Smith said, which was extended due to her daughter’s limitations on the road.
“It was definitely a whirlwind adventure but it was totally worth it,” Smith said. “My daughter is an incredible person. She’s been an inspiration to a lot of people and I’m glad this happened for her.”
The Kids Wish Network is a national charitable organization dedication to improving the quality of life of children with life threatening illnesses by providing special adventures, such as unique trips or the chance to meet heroes and celebrities.