Thursday, August 15, 2013

When You Wish Upon A Star

When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you

If your heart is in your dream
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
As dreamers do

When the idea was first presented to her, she quickly dismissed it.  She said she could not accept as there were others much more deserving than her.  Over time we kept the idea alive through the occasional reminder and dinner table discussion, but the door remained closed.  That was until one special night when magic happened and she accepted to wish upon a star.

For those who don’t know, the Make A Wish® Foundation is a wonderful organization that focuses on granting wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions.  In a world that seems to be filled with negativity and constant challenge, this group moves forward with their mission day in and day out.  They do not do it for publicity or for the rich and famous.  As defined on their webpage they pursue their mission “to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.”  Excellent!

Emma was first exposed to Make A Wish® through one of her doctors who thought she should consider the program before she hit the ripe old age of 18 (when the opportunity ceased).  He informed her that he had others go through the foundation and were blessed with a wonderful chance to meet someone they always wanted to meet, go somewhere they always wanted to go, or do something they always wanted to do.  Short of a few small limits, there were none.  Imagine it and it would become real.  Dream it and it would come true.  Despite this, Emma remained skeptical partially because she didn't feel deserving and partially because (I believe) she was a bit hesitant to accept such a gift which recognizes the challenge she fights so hard to balance.  She has chosen not to be known as that girl with Pompe, but rather someone with many talents and skills who also has this condition.

It was a December night in Princeton when all the pieces came together.  We were in town to celebrate the birthday of a very special girl who also has chosen to define herself by strength, character, and humor.  By luck, chance, or fate, our doctor was in attendance along with a couple senior leaders of the foundation.  He introduced us and told them all about Emma’s story and her hesitation to accept a wish.  Upon hearing the story they explained that she was indeed deserving because she has a chronic disease which impacts her life each and every day.  They urged her to reconsider, but do so quickly as her 18th birthday was fast approaching.

Upon returning from the event, Emma thought it over and agreed to move forward.  With less than a month to complete all the forms and get all the approvals, we sprang into action emailing the local and national representatives, reaching out to our doctor for documentation, and pushing Emma for a decision on that wish.  Suddenly it was as if she had discovered a genie’s bottle and just one wish to make.  It seems easy, but stop think about it.  If someone suddenly offered you one wish what would you say?

After much deliberation, the wish was set.  It was a trip to a place she always dreamed of going, but wasn’t sure she would ever make it …Paris.  She loved the culture, the fashion, the people, and especially the food.  She saw herself waking amongst the history and sitting at a street side cafe and watching the world walk by. It was magical!  Before we knew it, the wish was submitted and Donna and I were notified it was approved.  

We kept it a secret until Make A Wish® and a team from the company De Lage Landen (DLL) who raised funds for the wish surprised us with a  baking class at Strawberry Bakery, a wonderful French bakery near our home.  The team coordinated Emma's French Pastry Party as a way to announce the gift to Emma, have us learn a bit about baking French pastries, enjoy elcairs, croissants, elephant ears, cookies, and have a great time.  If you are in the Philly area and have a chance be sure to stop by and say hello to Jean Pierre at Strawberry Bakery.  He is an excellent baker and a kick! (Check out http://strawberry-bakery.com/)

A few days later, more Make A Wish® volunteers arrived at our door with plane tickets, hotel reservations, tour schedules and much more.  The whole trip was planned out from start to finish.  Before we knew it, the five of us packed our bags, loaded into a limo, and were on our way!  We landed in Paris the next morning and were greeted by a driver who whisked us off to Hotel Claude Bernard.  As soon we arrived, the kids raced to their room, opened the door to their balcony, took in the view, and were amazed.  In that first glance we knew Paris would be everything she wished it would be...simply amazing!

We wasted no time and began our adventure by walking to a local café for lunch.  Emma went right for the steak with pommes frites followed by Crème Brulee and the first of many cappuccinos.  The Make A Wish® team smartly planned tourist buses for us so we could see the city while limiting the amount of walking the girls had to do.  So, the next day we hit the tourist circuit visited Notre Dame, Champs Elysses, the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, and the Louvre.  Our trip was finished with a fantastic midnight cruise on the Seine, taking in the Paris nightlife along the river, and seeing the Eiffel Tower shining like a beacon for all to see.  

Each day we would stop and find a new cafe and enjoy lunch and Emma’s third, fifth, and ninth cappuccino.  Each night we took a different dining adventure trying out a recommended restaurant here and guessing on another there.  The kids ate caviar, crepes, croissants, steaks, pastas, macaroons, escargot, duck, foie gras, chocolate mousse, more croissants, and a wee bit of wine.  As you can see, we did not starve and everyone stepped just a bit out of the comfort zone and into the lives of the locals.  It was lovely.

Along the way something unexpected happened.  Amongst a sea of people speaking all types of languages, the five of us bonded as a family.  We all knew summer would be ending soon and with that things would change.  Soon, Emma would be moving away to college, Maddie would start high school, and football would take over Carter's life. We found that more than just a girl’s dreams came true so did that of her parents'.  Surely Paris was her destination of choice, but it also turned out to be the ideal place for us to be together, talk together, laugh together, and join Emma on her twelfth, thirteenth, and sixteenth cappuccino. 

In the end, it was a very humbling and emotional experience for all of us.  Being exposed to the Make A Wish® and the DLL team reminded us once again that there are many wonderful people out there doing great work on behalf of those who need a helping hand.  To everyone we met and to those we didn't, we want to say thank you.  Thank you for a great trip with great memories, but most importantly, thank you for allowing a young lady the chance to make her Paris dream a reality.  Thank you for allowing her to stop, close her eyes, and believe that 

When you wish upon a star
Your dreams come true


Credit to: Disney, "When You Wish Upon A Star"

To learn more about the Make A Wish® Foundation, please visit their site at http://wish.org/.

Here's a few photos you might enjoy.


Emma's French Pastry Party


 Bon Voyage from the Make A Wish® and De Lage Landen teams


An excellent view of Notre Dame from the kids' room 


 Hello from the Louvre


Emma's 15th or was it 17th cappuccino?



A midnight cruise along the Seine  


Make A Wish!