Gilbert 7-year-old Lindsey Muszkiewicz received her wish to visit Hawaii, put her toes in the ocean and played on the beach in a beach wheelchair thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Arizona.
"I loved the ocean," said Lindsey, a Pioneer Elementary School first-grader who was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy when she was 15 months old and has been in a wheelchair since she was 2. "I want to live there. It’s like heaven there."
She saw sea turtles and sea otters, went whale watching, participated in a luau and took a helicopter tour on the weeklong trip to Hawaii in March with her family.
Lindsey’s granted wish is the 2,500th wish from the Make-AWish Foundation of Arizona, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. The nonprofit organization started in Arizona in 1980 and has grown to every state in the country and 30 countries throughout the world, said Laura Toussaint-Newkirk, Make-A-Wish Foundation of Arizona’s spokeswoman.
"She told me every day that this was the greatest day of her life," said Lindsey’s mom, Lisa, who went on the trip with her husband, Rob, and 4-year-old son Brandon. "It was a time for all of us to not stress about the hospital, not worry and just relax and spend time together. It was literally magical."
The Make-A-Wish Foundation is dedicated to bringing hope, strength and joy to children with lifethreatening medical conditions by granting their fondest wish, Toussaint-Newkirk said.
The first wish was granted April 29, 1980, to a Phoenix boy who had leukemia and wanted to be a highway patrolman like characters on his favorite television show, "CHiPs."
Since then, children have met Adam Sandler and Britney Spears, spent the day as Spider-Man saving people from the Green Goblin and visited Disneyland, one of the most common wishes.
The average cost of a wish is $5,000, and there are four types of wishes: I want to be, I want to have, I want to go and I want to meet, Toussaint-Newkirk said.
One unusual wish was from a Tucson boy who loved pickles but wasn’t able to eat them for a while because he had a heart condition and couldn’t have sodium, Toussaint-Newkirk said.
Make-A-Wish sent him to Maryland to visit a pickle factory. He was able to make his own pickles and even packed his own pickle jars. To this day, the factory continues to send him a jar of pickles a month, Toussaint-Newkirk said.
Make-A-Wish Foundation of Arizona is always in need of donations and volunteers to help grant wishes. Sixty percent of wishes involve travel, and people can donate airline miles or vouchers.