Three months before her fifth birthday, Cheyenne was diagnosed with Neuromuscular Disease permanently putting her on the sidelines, or so she thought.
Cheyenne has kept her upbeat and positive attitude even through constant tests, endless physical therapy sessions and needing to use a wheelchair. It was not until she watched the movie Soul Surfer that she knew she wanted to meet the heroine Bethany Hamilton, a professional surfer who lost her arm in a shark attack.
“Cheyenne’s wish to meet Bethany Hamilton came at such a good time for her because emotionally she was so drained,” said her dad, Doug.
Make-A-Wish® Alaska and Washington sent Cheyenne and her family to Kauai where Bethany resides. From the moment the van picked the family up at their home to landing in Kauai, they felt as though they were getting the royal treatment. Cheyenne’s mom, Shannon, recalls, “They treated Cheyenne like she was a princess.”
The VIP treatment began once they saw their accommodations. “The condo was beautiful,” said Shannon. “It was bigger than our house! Cheyenne was excited because she had a bigger bed to sleep in and more space to move around.”
The next day, the adventures began. Cheyenne’s family met up with two other wish families whose kids also wished to meet Bethany. The kids were giddy with excitement when Bethany arrived. She spent quality one-on-one time with all three wish kids while everybody was in the water. “The smile that we saw on Cheyenne’s face while she was in the water was unforgettable and something we had not seen in quite some time,” said Doug. Cheyenne even turned to her mom and said, “Mom, this is heaven!”
The following day, they enjoyed a BBQ and more swim time with Bethany and her family.
The next day, Cheyenne received an unexpected phone call asking if she wanted to see Bethany surfing. The family was escorted to a “locals only” beach where they were greeted by Bethany’s best friend. Cheyenne was the last one to leave the beach which allowed for more time with Bethany. Doug said, “We had a time we will never forget, bonding as a family away from the everyday.”
It was through meeting Bethany that Cheyenne was able to regain her smile that had been lost for so long and even gain a friend in the process. Cheyenne and Bethany correspond through emails occasionally, and she has regained her confidence allowing her to do things that she never thought she could.
Special thanks: Wish-granting volunteers Cherelle Bertch and Jim Dennis, Bethany Hamilton and family, Alaska Airlines, Bayview Limousines and Wyndam Bali Hai Villas