Jenna is a typical teenage girl. She loves to do her hair and makeup, going shopping, and hanging out with her friends. However, there is one major thing that separates Jenna from girls her age: her gastrointestinal disorder.
Jenna was born a healthy child and continued that way—minus the typical scrapes and flus—until she was 7 years old. Jenna began to have consistent stomach pain, that at the time was manageable. By the time Jenna turned 11, her condition worsened, and she received her diagnosis.
“She can’t eat,” her mom explained. “She gets all of her nutrition from a PICC line in her arm. She can’t go to school; she does all her schooling online. Her social life has changed too. She can’t hang out with her friends like she used to.”
This change of lifestyle was incredibly hard for Jenna. She began to give up hope for what her future would look like and she felt as though she had nothing to look forward to. One day, her mom saw a Facebook post. It was from a friend of a friend—as most are—but this one stood out. It was the tale of a young girl who, much like Jenna, was battling a critical medical condition. The post described the young girl’s wish story, stating that the experience changed her life. The post inspired Jenna’s mom to contact Make-A-Wish Utah and Jenna’s wish experience began.
When considering options for her wish, Jenna took her time deciding what she wanted. Originally, she wanted to travel, but the unpredictability of her illness inhibited that. She thought of her favorite things: hair, makeup, clothes, friends. She knew she wanted a wish she could never have otherwise. It was then that it hit her; she was turning 16 in a few months and the perfect wish was to have the biggest party of her life!
With her decision made she was thrown into planning mode. “It was surreal at first because it was a few months out, but once she began shopping for it and going to the spa it became real,” her mom said. This party changed her perspective. Where she once didn’t have hope or anything to look forward to, she now had the biggest night of her life so far to think about constantly.
When the day came Jenna could hardly contain her excitement. She was at the center of a whirlwind of guests, gifts and entertainment. Hundreds of people throughout northern Utah showed up to help Jenna celebrate. Some guests were her closest friends and others were people she had never met but felt drawn to her story. “All the people there were there to see her,” her mom says. “People she didn’t even know brought her presents.”
After hours of dancing, meeting new people, and busting open an avocado-shaped piñata, Jenna was exhausted, and the party came to an end. Immediately following her party, Jenna realized that the magic of her wish would continue past one night. The day after, she had over two hundred presents to open. “She got a lot of gift cards, so she is still shopping with them,” her mom says. “There are still reminders of the day for her and it continues to show her that people care about her.”
From a giant Jenna sign that once hung behind the DJ booth but is now on her bedroom wall, to the pile of ready-to-spend gift cards, Jenna’s wish continues to make her feel special. It is a continuing memory that provides Jenna hope and gives her a positive outlook for her future—and of course tons of new clothes and makeup.