When Andrea and Adam first told their daughter Hannah that her older sister Ella was going to get a wish granted in the form of a splash pad through Make-A-Wish Minnesota, Hannah said, “Ohhh, she’ll love that.” She then proceeded to give the kind of look that says, ‘but what about me?’ “You’ll get a wish too,” her mother assured her. Hannah responded, “I’ll get to go to Disney then?!” “So two wishes came out of this one.” Andrea smirks. Her warm smile perfectly exemplified the loving home they’ve created on a 2.5 acre wooded lot not far from uptown Hamel. They call it their forever home and I can see why as we talk casually in their kitchen on an early summer evening in July. The sunlight beams through the windows where Andrea’s mom sits with Ella at a nearby dining room table. Adam’s sense of humor and Andrea’s calm demeanor set a comfortable tone as they tell their Make-a-Wish story.
Ella, 9 years old, has epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), global developmental delay and is also non-verbal. She was diagnosed at 1.5 years old.
Andrea begins, “When you think of Make-a-Wish, I didn’t think of Ella as someone we would even look into it for because I always thought it was for kids with terminal illnesses.” But as they would learn, Make-a-Wish also grants wishes for kids with significant lifelong medical conditions.
Andrea learned about it during a casual conversation at Lifetime Fitness with a person who encouraged her to apply to Make-a-Wish Minnesota despite Ella not having a terminal illness. After a few months of thought, Andrea finally decided to give it a shot while at their cabin one weekend. It was the spring of 2018 and they received a reply back very shortly after applying requesting a release of information from her neurologist and special ed teachers. Not long after, they were asked to come in and discuss what Ella might like. Since Ella is non-verbal, Andrea and Adam had to determine what they thought she wanted. “What was really neat is that her special ed team listed what Ella’s likes and dislikes were and they were very similar to what we thought as well,” Andrea said. It was agreed she likes anything to do with water, music or books and despite one of the most common requests which would be go to Disney, the family immediately knew, “Ella would hate that; the crowds, the travel, she wouldn’t even go on the rides.” So when Adam and Andrea suggested a splash pad, Make-a-Wish Minnesota was totally onboard, noting they had done that for other children before. Apparently, Make-a-Wish doesn’t give a budget or a price, but they give guidelines as to what you can and can’t get. For example, they could do a splash pad, but not a fence to go around it as a fence would be considered a separate wish.
From the beginning, Make-a-Wish Minnesota told them that the whole process could be expected to take about a year. Throughout the process, they were provided a “wish pal” who did things for them. For example, on her birthday in May Ella received a card with stickers, and a dozen cupcakes from a local bakery showed up. Adam laughs, “So I was kind of confused about what this person did. They just kept dropping gifts and we could never see the person or get to meet them. They’d tell us, ‘don’t go by the front door because the person is dropping something off in 10 minutes’ and I’d be like WHO is and WHY can’t we meet her!?” They both laugh as Andrea continues, “And the gifts were nothing extravagant – another being a personalized beach towel and sunglasses- but we just couldn’t meet the person providing them.” They later found out the beach towels were also donated by a local business.
The splash pad was officially installed in June. It was supplied by My Splash Pad, based out of Louisville, Ohio. Their dedicated team drove 16+ hours to make it to Ella’s home, though around halfway through the journey ran into a minor transport issue. Thankfully Ella’s father, Adam, was willing to go the extra distance to help them finish their journey to Minnesota. Once they finally made it to Ella’s home in Medina, the head laborer from My Splash Pad was elated to see that Adam had taken the liberty to prepare the area in their backyard for installation by properly excavating, tamping down 16 inches of gravel and forming the overall space to spec. This was an added bonus that My Splash Pad was expecting to do on their own. Adam said it was a small way they could help give back to the people who were giving them so much.
All one needed to see was the smile on Ella’s face when they revealed the wish to her. Her sister Hannah, who just turned 8 in November, has also had lots of fun with her neighborhood friends enjoying it this past summer and likely for many years to come. The family is incredibly thankful to Make-a-Wish Minnesota and to all of the amazing support they’ve received from an organization so genuinely dedicated to love, compassion and life-changing service for children with critical illnesses. If you’d like to learn more or help support Make-a-Wish Minnesota, please visit their website at https://mn.wish.org. Minnesota Make-a-Wish donates about 15 wishes per year.