It wasn’t just Santa Claus who granted wishes this month.
Daniela Calderon, a 17-year-old junior at Basic High School, was surprised Dec. 6 by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which is granting her wish to travel to Japan in 2014.
Following a Macy’s fashion show, Calderon took the runway at the Fashion Show mall to talk about Make-A-Wish and the “Believe” campaign Macy’s puts on to raise money for the organization.
Calderon was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in April and expressed her wish to go to Japan a few months ago.
In her mind, Calderon was invited to the mall to be the face of Make-A-Wish and show the impact of people contributing to the program.
Caroline Ciocca, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish Southern Nevada, and Kelly Fernandez, vice president and store manager of Macy’s at the Fashion Show mall, took the stage with Calderon to talk about Macy’s “Believe” campaign.
“Every year, we ask our customers to come in and write a letter to Santa,” Fernandez said.
Children are asked to bring letters to any Macy’s and drop them in the red Santa Mail letterbox. For every letter mailed, Macy’s donates $1, up to $1 million, to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
On National Believe Day, which was Dec. 6, Macy’s was trying to raise an additional $2 million for Make-A-Wish.
“I thought I was just going to talk about Make-A-Wish,” Calderon said. “I honestly had no idea what was going on.”
As Ciocca began to talk about the organization and Calderon’s story, two women dressed in kimonos, traditional Japanese garments, came in behind them.
Calderon pressed her face into her palms, trying not to cry, as she began to understand what was going on.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I just get so emotional.”
Make-A-Wish Southern Nevada was founded in 1996 to help children with life-threatening diseases in Clark, Nye, Lincoln and Esmeralda counties.
It has granted anything from a child meeting his favorite movie star to a trip across the globe.
More than 200,000 wishes have been granted nationally, more than 1,400 in Southern Nevada.
To qualify for a wish, people must be between ages 2 and 18.
The foundation expects to grant about 100 wishes in Southern Nevada this year with Calderon being one of its recipients.
Calderon’s struggle with cancer began this year.
After perpetual stomach pain, she decided to visit the doctor.
“I kept getting misdiagnosed,” she said. “I was told it was constipation.”
More tests revealed she had a tumor on her ovary. Calderon went into surgery, hoping for the best.
“I was in the hospital for five days,” she said. “I thought it would be benign.”
But the tumor was cancerous.
She spent the summer and part of the school year in and out of the hospital going through chemotherapy.
“I felt really isolated,” she said while fighting back tears. “Sometimes you don’t want to live going through that. It just hurts so bad.”
When it came to her wish, Calderon knew what she wanted.
Since she was 6, she enjoyed Japanese culture, in particular anime. While she was in chemotherapy, a lot of the stories from anime movies helped her get through rough times.
“There was one movie in particular that the kid in it was going through the same thing that I was,” she said. “He had the same side effects of chemo.”
Along with the trip, Macy’s also donated a shopping spree for Calderon.
“They even donated a five-piece luggage set,” Ciocca said.
After the announcement, people in the audience came up to Calderon to give her spontaneous donations or words of encouragement.
“Thank you,” she said as a man handed her cash he told her to use for spending money on her trip.
Calderon’s trip is planned for April.
“Thinking about the trip will get me through the semester,” she said. “It’s hard getting back into everything. This will give me the boost I need.”
For more information on Make-A-Wish, visit snv.wish.org.
Contact Henderson/Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at email@example.com or 702-387-5201.