Meet Tai and Mikayla. These two have never met in person, and their wishes happened 13 years apart. But these former wish kids have the same favorite movie—Sleeping Beauty—and they wished for the same thing: to visit the Walt Disney World® Animation Studios.
Picture this: it’s the year 2001, and 16-year-old Tai is doing what normal high school kids do. She’s eagerly anticipating the day she can get her driver’s license, and she’s wondering whether her lifelong dream to become an artist makes practical sense. She’s a good swimmer, and she dabbles with running track. She loves watching the animated movies Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and Toy Story, though her favorite movie will always be Sleeping Beauty. Maybe it’s her favorite because Tai feels a connection with Princess Briar Rose who pricks her finger on the enchanted spinning wheel.
Like Briar Rose, Tai faced a seemingly insurmountable obstacle during her 16th year: stage four bone cancer.
All her dreams were put on hold—as if in a long sleep—and Tai began a year that included 75 days in the hospital, many rounds of chemo, and two major surgeries on her hip.
While Tai battled cancer, two-year-old Mikayla had already undergone two open-heart surgeries due to a congenital heart defect called single ventricle syndrome (HRHS).
Mikayla was fighting for her life while her mind, like other two-year-olds, was just beginning to open up to the wonder of storytelling. Mikayla loved animated movies, and she was obsessed with dragons—particularly drawing dragons.
By the time Mikayla turned 10, she knew she wanted to become an animation artist when she grew up.
Art was a source of joy and escape for both Tai and Mikayla. That’s why, when presented with a wish, both of them wished to visit the Walt Disney Animation Studios in Burbank, California.
Tai’s wish happened on her 17th birthday in 2002. Her favorite part was watching the animators at work. The messy desks. The dark room with computer screens. The people behind the stories. Quite simply, Tai was mesmerized by the chance to witness real working artists.
“Having my wish to go and see these artists really solidified that becoming an artist was something that I wanted to do,” said Tai.
Today Tai works at Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington as the Design & Production Manager. We like to think of her as our JOY artist.
“Make-A-Wish reminded me that joy is so important in our lives, and if I’m not 100% loving what I’m doing, then I’m not using my life in a way that would make those kids who didn’t survive cancer proud,” says Tai.
Tai’s wish lasted longer than a day. It was a validation of her future. Tai says, “A wish inspires hope for the future. It reminds you that you have a future and it’s still worth looking forward to.”
Every year when her birthday rolls around, Tai celebrates not just another year, but also her wishiversary—the anniversary of the day she visited Walt Disney Animation Studios.
Mikayla’s wish came true in 2015 when she was 16 years old. She says, “Animating is something that I’ve always wanted to do…and to animate with other Disney animators was really cool.”
For Mikayla, the wish gave her a chance to do something all her own…and to focus on future ambitions. Just two months prior to her wish, she underwent surgery to have a pacemaker placed. “The wish motivated me,” said Mikayla. “It makes me want to work to become an animator even more.” Her favorite part of the wish was getting the chance to animate Malificent with artist Eric Goldberg.
Mikayla has two years left of high school, and her dream to become an animator when she grows up is as strong as ever.
When asked to describe their wishes in a word, Tai said, “life-changing.” Mikayla said, “turbo-tastic,” stealing a line from one of her favorite characters, Turbo, from Wreck-It Ralph.
Thanks to supporters like you, Tai and Mikayla not only experienced a wish come true. Their wishes inspired them to become artists for a lifetime, and to continue to reach toward their goals despite the medical obstacles along the way.