Like many kids, Calli wanted to go to Walt Disney World® Resort. She also dreamed of meeting Princess Aurora (a.k.a. Sleeping Beauty).
Those fairytale wishes became reality, but not until after Calli endured three open-heart surgeries, numerous medical complications, tough health conditions, energy-depleting low oxygen levels, and long hospital stays - all before her fifth birthday.
“It was a rough road,” said her mom, Robyn.
Calli, now 7, was born with major congenial heart defects (single ventricle). She needed surgery when only two days old so she wouldn’t have to live on tubes and ventilators.
That was the beginning of a difficult five years, which included two more surgeries to help her heart function and keep oxygen flowing to her extremities.
Because of her condition, Calli was isolated at home for her first two years. She showed signs of improvement by age 3 - it was a big deal for her family to throw her a birthday party - but she ended back in Primary Children’s Medical Center for a month-long stay before turning 5.
“That was a very hard time,” her mom admitted. “But she made it through. Now she’s doing great.”
Dr. Susan Etheridge submitted her gutsy patient’s name to Make-A-Wish® Utah because the cardiologist believed Calli deserved a magical moment.
Before long, three beautiful princesses visited the young girl’s Utah home to hand deliver an invitation that looked to be from a queen.
Her wish had been granted.
Calli’s trip to Florida wasn’t for another six months, but her wish granter, Pat Hansen, visited her every month with special princess-themed gifts (balloons, books, games, crayons) to remind her of the upcoming trip.
“It was incredible,” Robyn said.
When the time finally came, Calli was filled with excitement. She was thrilled to make her first airplane flight, to stay at the first-class Give Kids the World storybook resort and especially to get a chance to meet Princess Aurora at Walt Disney World® Resort.
By a stroke of luck, the giddy 6-year-old girl didn’t have to wait long for that enchanted encounter to happen.
Right after her family watched the Electrical Parade on the first day at Walt Disney World® Resort, Calli saw Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and … Sleeping Beauty. Aurora just so happened to be the first princess she saw in the park.
Calli’s face lit up with a “magical awe,” her mom recalled.
“It was indescribable,” Robyn said. “I had tears because you don’t know what princesses you’re going to see. Aurora is her favorite and the first one she got to meet, so it was so neat.”
The whole fulfilled wish was neat for Calli, her parents, Robyn and Brad, and her three older brothers, Jackson, Carson and Cache.
Though a healthier and happy second-grader, Calli isn’t out of the woods with her heart condition. In her young adult years, she will eventually require a transplant. Surgeries have only given her a temporary fix. Even so, the whole Make-A-Wish® experience - from putting her wish in the wizard’s hat to the time she raised her star in princess attire - helped reinforce an important life lesson that her mom has taught her: “She can do anything she wants.”
As proof, Calli even ran a mile race a few months after her wish trip.
“She did everything any normal kid can do. She has heart defects and her oxygen levels are low. She tires easily,” Robyn said, recalling the Disney World trip. “I just want her to know that she can do anything she wants, and that whole experience, it helped her to just live life.”
- written by Jody Genessy