It has always been tradition to make a wish when blowing out the candles on a birthday cake or when seeing a shooting star in the night sky. However, there are no guarantees that one's wish will come true when following such traditions. Have you ever thought about what it would be like to actually be able to make a wish and have that wish granted?
Well, 4-year-old Oliver Ballmer, Holton, got to experience that feeling first-hand, thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Make-A-Wish Foundation grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.
By looking at Oliver, you would never be able to tell that this delightful, rambunctious little boy has been through so much at just four years of age. He and his two-year-old sister, Olivia, happily play with their toys and run around the living room. This child looks as if he has never had a care in the world. However, looks can be very deceiving.
Kayla and Josh Ballmer were informed late in Kayla's pregnancy that their unborn child's heart was not developing properly. They were even told by some medical professionals that the prognosis for their child was not good and the suggestion of even terminating the pregnancy was mentioned. However, despite the odds, Oliver was going to get a chance to prove medical science wrong.
Oliver was born on August 14, 2008, weighing 6 lbs., 8 ozs., with a medical condition known as Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, which basically means that his heart had only three developed chambers instead of four. Just four days after making his way into the world, Oliver underwent his first open-heart surgery, also known as the Norwood Procedure.
The Norwood Procedure involved rerouting Oliver's heart arteries to make his blood flow better, as well as surgically making his top two heart chambers into one, essentially leaving Oliver with half a heart.
In September 2008, Oliver went in for his second surgery, called the Nissan Procedure. He wasn't gaining enough weight, which raised concerns. The procedure involved tying Oliver's stomach around his esophagus and the insertion of a G-tube.
Oliver underwent his third open heart surgery, known as the Glenn Procedure, in February 2009 at six months of age. And, in March 2010, Oliver was placed on the operating table one more time where cardiologists completed the rerouting of his arteries and got his oxygen levels to where they needed to be.
"We are finally done with the surgeries," Kayla said. "He is currently on blood pressure medicine, heart medicine and baby aspirin. We visit the cardiologist once every six months where they perform an echocardiogram (EKG) to make sure Oliver's heart is still working properly."
"Our goal is to get him down to one cardiologist visit a year and to wean him off of all of his medications," Kayla said.
"The oldest living survivor with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome is just 27 years of age," said Kayla. "He may someday need a heart transplant, but right now, Oliver's heart is functioning like that of a normal child his age."
After going through more than what most people will ever have to deal with in their lifetime in the first years of his life, who better deserves to have his wish come true?
Kayla happened to be online surfing a social website when she saw that others had gotten their child's wish granted through Make-A-Wish Foundation, and thought they might be eligible, too. So, she visited their website and completed an online application.
After receiving Kayla's application, the team at Make-A-Wish Foundation got right on it by contacting doctors and cardiologists. Within a month, Kayla received a call letting her know that they were in receipt of her application and all was in order.
A couple of months later, Deanna Young and Lori Hunter from Make-A-Wish Foundation came to visit with Oliver and his family, as well as to ask Oliver about his wish.
"Oliver's smile lit up the room the first time Lori and I met with the family," said Young.
"He was so excited to go to Disney World and see Mickey Mouse."
"I want to meet Mickey Mouse and play with him on the playground," Oliver told them.
In July, Young called to let the Ballmers know that Oliver's wish had been granted and all the family needed to do was pick the dates they would be available to go.
The week of September 16-22 is a week that Oliver and his family will never forget. They were picked up in a limousine and taken to the airport where they boarded a plane for Orlando, FL, where they were treated to a week's stay at "Give Kids the World Village" at Disney World.
"It was as much fun there as it was at the Disney Park," said Kayla. They had the world's largest Candy Land game, a Halloween party, a Christmas Winter Wonderland Party, and a pirates and princesses party."
"We were fed breakfast, lunch and dinner and unlimited icecream. We were only 25 minutes away from all of the Disney Parks. We had tickets to all of the Disney Parks and Universal Orlando Parks," Kayla said, adding that they didn't even have to wait in a single line for any of the rides or attractions.
Oliver's wish to meet Mickey Mouse came true when he and his family attended a meet-and-greet with the famous mouse. Unfortunately, Mickey was not available to come and play on the playground with Oliver; however, Mayor Clayton, a life-size rabbit who serves as Mayor of "Give Kids the World", made a perfect replacement.
"They had it all planned out before we got there," said Kayla. "Mayor Clayton played on the playground with Oliver."
"We loved being able to plan a send-off party and arrange all kinds of things for Oliver to do while in Florida," Young said. "One of my personal goals is to make a difference to someone everyday; and through Make-A-Wish Foundation I am able to help make that difference to those kids with life-threatening illnesses. Although the situations can be very heartbreaking, the joy that I have seen in each of the wishes we are able to grant warms my heart and makes all the efforts and fundraising worth it."
When asked if he had fun with Mayor Clayton, Oliver said, "He was really big and he was wiggling and he couldn't sit on the swing," adding that the mayor did push him on the swing though.
"Mayor Clayton even came into Oliver's room each night to tuck him into bed," Kayla said. And, the gift fairy brought little gifts each day for both kids. Every day was an adventure."
Oliver also enjoyed meeting Buzz and Woody from Toy Story and feeding the dolphins at Sea World.
"His mom said one of the highlights of his trip was seeing the ocean," said Young. "He was all smiles when he saw Mickey. It's hard to explain the feeling you get as a volunteer to see these wishes granted and see how excited the kids are to have their biggest wishes fulfilled. It's awesome!"
In addition to hotel accommodations, Make-A-Wish Foundation also supplied the family with some spending cash to pay for luggage, souvenirs and food outside of "Give Kids the World".
"We are forever thankful for the organization (Make A Wish Foundation). Because of them we were given SO many smiles and great experiences. Our trip is something that we will never forget," said Kayla. "I'm actually planning a fundraiser to kind of ‘give back' and help grant the wish of another child. It would be an amazing feeling to know that I helped bring smiles and happiness to another family,"
"Oliver's family was a joy to work with," said Young. "They were so appreciative of the wish and everything Make-A-Wish Foundation was able to do to make Oliver's wish come true."
Children between the ages of 2 1/2 and 18 years are eligible for wishes if they have been diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition by his/her primary care physician and have not received a wish from another wish-granting organization. Children do not need to be terminally ill to qualify. The good news is that many children recover and are able to return to normal lives. The financial status of the family is NOT considered when qualifying a child.
Children may be referred to Make-A-Wish Foundation to receive a wish by a parent, legal guardian, or a medical professional.
"All money donated to the Indiana chapter of Make-A-Wish Foundation is used to fulfill the wishes of children in your specific region. Seventy-six percent of each dollar goes directly to granting wishes. Last year, Indiana granted over 250 wishes," said Young.
Those who would like to donate and help make a difference to Make-A-Wish Foundation can do so by sending their tax-deductible donation to: Make-A-Wish Foundation, 7330 Woodland Drive, Suite 200, Indianapolis, IN 46278.
SUBMITTED PHOTO/CINDY WARD
Oliver Ballmer is pictured left with Disney character Mayor Clayton, as he played on the playground with him at Disney World in Florida this fall. Oliver was also tucked into bed at night by Mayor Clayton. Pictured right is the Ballmer family, Josh and Kayla and children, Olivia, being held by her dad, and Oliver, who's wish came true!