For 10-year-old Stephanie, who faces challenges from both epilepsy and visual impairment, her wish experience at Disneyland® Resort proved to be both exhilarating and healing.
“Disneyland was very stimulating for her auditorily,” said her grandmother, Daline. “She was just all smiles - she was lighting up ear to ear, and she would turn her head to listen to everything.” Stephanie not only loved listening to Disney music throughout the resort, but became quite enthralled with the park rides. In fact, she rode on the children’s rides, as well as the moderately difficult rides, such as the Matterhorn, water rafts, and race cars in both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park with her grandparents.
“It was the generosity on the part of Disneyland that was special,” said Stephanie’s grandmother. “They said, ‘Just let her go again on the rides.’ She caught onto that immediately and didn’t want to get off. On one ride she went three times.”
Daline explained that vestibular (inner ear) stimulation is therapeutic for Stephanie. Without the constant stimulation that eyesight provides, visually impaired children benefit from activities that provide motion or body movement. In addition, the development of sensory awareness through touch, smell and sound is beneficial for kids like Stephanie. “Her hair was blowing back, and she was laughing and just loving it,” said Daline. “It was a great sensory experience for her, and I felt it was a confidence booster for her.”
Stephanie swam in the hotel’s warm pool every night of her trip. And although she often dislikes leaving swimming pools, Daline felt she became more cooperative about leaving the pool during this trip. Also, her willingness to walk and her stamina seemed to improve after her strolls around the resort, which helped to improve her confidence.
“Make-A-Wish gets the credit for this experience,” said Daline. “What was so wonderful was that Make-A-Wish handled every single detail. The trip was not stressful for us.”
Everything, from airport valet services and hotel bookings to an itinerary complete with breakfast with Disney princesses, was pre-arranged for Stephanie. The family appreciated little tips from Make-A-Wish volunteers Brooke and Meghan, such as Disney themes and books that her grandmother now enjoys reading to her each night at home.
“The Make-A-Wish volunteers who came to our home were amazing,” said Daline. “They always brought a gift, were very kind, very considerate, took time to explain things, and even put on a pizza party for Stephanie.”
Daline also credits Alaska Airlines for their generosity and kindness. From start to finish, airline arrangements such as check-in and seating were made easy and even included a special greeting and gift from the Alaska Airlines pilot. “They knew how to handle things for us,” she said.
So, this summertime wish trip not only provided fun for Stephanie, but was also a memorable treat for her grandparents. “All three of us having fun together for that duration of time was a special experience.”