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Birthday wish coming true for Holy Family student

1/26/2014

ELIZABETH GOLDEN

egolden@dailynews.net

Aylin Olivas, a sixth-grader at Holy Family Elementary School, always has wanted to go to Disney World.

When she was five, she went to California with her parents but, she doesn't remember much of that trip.

"Florida is much different than Kansas," she said. "I wanted to go more than anything else. They (Make-A-Wish) knew I had cancer, so they told me I could choose something I wanted to do, like go on a trip or meet a famous artist."

Make-A-Wish Kansas is responsible for fulfilling Olivas' wish to go to Disney World.

"The child has to be diagnosed with a life-threatening illness," said Melanie Wheeler, the wish granter overseeing Olivas' request.

"We ask them 'If you could go anywhere, where would you like to go; if you could be anybody, who would you want to be; if you could meet anybody, who would you like to meet; and if you could have anything, what would you like to have.'

"We keep narrowing it down until we get to the one thing they want more than anything."

Olivas was diagnosed with a brain tumor a year ago.

Funding for the wish is provided by private donations.

"They don't solicit or call people on the phone," Wheeler said. "It's all from people who donate money."

Wheeler, Kinsley, has been involved with Make-A-Wish since 1999, when she saw an advertisement for wish granters in a newspaper.

"This sounded like a great way to give back to the community," she said. "I've been granting wishes ever since then."

Wheeler has granted approximately 40 wishes and is working on eight more.

"I have a star tattooed on the top of my foot for every wish I've granted," she said.

Wheeler described the experience as rewarding.

"My favorite part is hearing how the wish went after they return from the trip," she said, "hearing the job and how excited they were and how much fun they had."

In her job as wish granter, Wheeler is responsible for communicating with the family and Make-A-Wish Foundation office in Wichita.

"There's a lot of leg-work to be done," she said. "But it's not overwhelming."

Olivas will leave for Florida Monday and will be staying two weeks.

A send-off party was Saturday at the North McDonald's in Hays. Olivas chose to have the party at McDonald's.

"We're going with a children's theme because when you go to Florida, you become a kid again," said Gail Kuehl, owner of the Hays McDonald's.

The festivities included games, a meal, presents and hugs with McDonald's mascot Grimace.

Olivas, who turned 12 Wednesday, received an Etch-a-Sketch, Go Fish cards and a McDonald's sweater in honor of her birthday.

For more information on Make-A-Wish or to learn how to become a wish granter, visit kansas.wish.org or email kansas@kansas.wish.org.