Love. That one word sums up what Make-A-Wish is all about according to wish mom, Carmen.
“That’s what Make-A-Wish does: it grows love. The kind of love that Make-A-Wish grows is so very far reaching and long lasting and brings so many people together and connects them is such a real and meaningful way,” says Carmen, mom of recent wish recipient, Markella. “That’s what makes a wish special, unique and powerful. In this case love was growing from Alaska all the way to Hawaii. The seeds were planted and it bloomed and it continues to grow as a result of that wish, both for our family and for all those who were a part of it.”
That love started when Make-A-Wish volunteers Lisa and Deb showed up to Markella’s home to tell her that she would receive a wish.
Since birth, Markella has lived with a rare illness that causes muscle fatigue and respiratory distress. But that’s not at all the first thing that her volunteers learned about her when they met her. Volunteer Lisa Grandchamp said, “Markella takes you into her world of wonder and grace and you are extremely happy to just ‘be’ and you can close your eyes and imagine exactly what she is describing in your own world.”
Markella knew she wanted to experience something magical—perhaps meet a fairy, or travel to an enchanted forest, or touch a rainbow—but it was hard for her to narrow down her imagination to focus on one specific wish.
Markella and her mom looked to Pinterest for some “wishspiration” and stumbled upon one particular image that grabbed her attention: a tree with rainbow bark.
It was only after she began drawing pictures for Lisa and Deb that it all clicked. When asked to draw her favorite magical place, Markella drew a tree with rainbow bark. It was a rainbow eucalyptus tree.
That’s what she wanted for her wish: to see those beautiful trees in person. After some research, Markella’s volunteers realized the family could see magical rainbow eucalyptus trees in Hawaii.
Markella’s wish came true at the Foster Botanical Garden on the island of Oahu. When her special day arrived, she was gifted a custom dress. Dressed like a fairy, she walked down a pathway marked by balloons, magical gifts and fun facts about rainbow trees until she saw it. There in front of her was a real-life rainbow eucalyptus tree.
Markella says, “My favorite part was seeing the rainbow eucalyptus tree because it was so magical and pretty.”
The magic of the wish extended beyond Markella.
Her passion was contagious to the community making it possible. Before the wish even began, Markella was the featured wish for a Taco Bell campaign in Alaska that rallied the community together to support local wishes. Once underway, Markella's vibrant personality attracted new friends from the moment she set foot in the airport. Even the mayor of Honolulu, Kirk Caldwell, got involved and wrote a special proclamation to Markella. He wrote, "While millions upon millions of visitors grace our shores every year, it sometimes takes a special person like you to see the magic in our amazing plant life."
For her family, that same sort of amazement was found in every aspect of her wish. From the support of Taco Bell to the day at Foster Botanical Garden to the special treatment on Alaska Airlines, to the people they met along every step of the journey, Markella’s family was overwhelmed and amazed by the number of people who went out of their way to make Markella feel like a leader. “A lot of sick kids don’t get to be leader… to be the girl in charge,” said Carmen. “On the wish trip, Markella was the leader, and she loved it.”
The wish was much more than a magical week in Hawaii with rainbow trees. According to her mom, Markella had the best medical year of her life. “She got such a boost from the wish,” said Carmen. “She talks about it almost every day.” Research shows that wishes have proven physical and emotional benefits that can give children with critical illnesses a higher chance of survival.
Markella’s disorder is so rare that doctors do not know what her future looks like.
But Markella isn’t worrying about her future. She’s still experiencing the magic and love that her wish created. “It was just paradise,” said Markella.
For Markella’s wish, love grew on rainbow trees. We’re so grateful to the community for making it come to life.
Special Thanks: Taco Bell/Denali Foods, Make-A-Wish Hawaii, Foster Botanical Garden, Wish-granting volunteers Deb Naspinsky and Lisa Grandchamp, Alaska Airlines, Palmer UPS Store, Red Robin