Mercer Islander receives trip from Make-A-Wish
By KATIE SCHMIDT
Mercer Island Reporter Intern
July 6, 2010 · Updated 10:17 AM
A Mercer Island 11-year-old with a rare, life-threatening genetic disease just had a wish come true, literally, when Make-A-Wish Foundation sent her and her family to Disney World for a week.
Make-A-Wish Foundation is a nationwide nonprofit that grants wishes to travel someplace, meet someone or do something special to children with life-threatening conditions.
The local chapter recently chose Megan Charney of Mercer Island as one of about 177 wish recipients within 30 miles of Mercer Island during the last year, according to a spokesperson for the foundation.
“It was just such a special thing for Megan,” said her mother, Pam. “For a week, she got to be the wish kid.”
The last couple of years have been stressful for their whole family, Pam Charney said. On top of the type 1 diabetes she has had since she was 5, Megan was diagnosed two years ago with a rare genetic disease called Kearns-Sayre Syndrome that causes hearing and vision loss. Last year, Megan began having heart trouble and had to get a pacemaker.
“This past year has been very hard for her,” said Pam Charney.
She said, though, that she heard of Make-A-Wish and talked to Megan’s doctor, who referred her to the program. Soon after, Make-A-Wish called the Charneys to tell them that Megan had qualified and sent volunteers to the house to start planning Megan’s trip.
Jeanetter Tarcha, a spokesperson for the foundation, said in order to be eligible to have a wish granted, a child must have been diagnosed with a life-threatening condition, must be between the ages of two-and-a-half and 18, and must never have been granted a wish by Make-A-Wish or a similar foundation in the past.
Pam Charney said Megan chose to go to Disney World because of Animal Kingdom.
“She loves animals, and she wants to be a vet when she grows up,” Charney said.
Tarcha said about half of the wishes that the foundation grants are Disney-related, and over the years Make-A-Wish has been able to develop relationships with Disney parks, hotels and airlines to reduce the cost of trips.
The foundation sent the whole Charney family to Orlando and even arranged for Megan’s older sister, who lives in Atlanta, to come to visit them there as a surprise, said Pam Charney.
Charney said Make-A-Wish took care of everything.
“We literally just had to close the door and Make-A-Wish took over,” she said. “All the stress was gone for a week. We just had to wake up in the morning and say: what park do we want to go to today?”
She said, overall, the experience was a special one for Megan because it took her mind off her twice-a-week doctors visits and let her just be a kid for a week.
“It really does make a huge difference in these kids’ lives,” Charney said, adding that her family intends to volunteer for Make-A-Wish in the future.
Tarcha also said that giving kids an escape from constant reminders about their health problems is one of the main things that Make-A-Wish tries to do.
Of recent wishes which the Northwest chapter of the foundation had planned, she said two of the most fun and challenging ones had been one boy who wanted to be a superhero for a day and another who wanted to be a pirate.
“Wishes like that really bring the community together,” Tarcha said. “We really see these kids light up.”
Since its founding in 1986, Tarcha said the Northwest chapter of Make-A-Wish has gone from granting six wishes a year to over 300. She said much of this growth was due to a change in Make-A-Wish eligibility criteria from terminally ill children to children with life-threatening conditions and to increasing awareness of the program over the years.