The Make-A-Wish Southern Nevada revealed Sunday that three girls from Las Vegas would have their Hawaiian vacation wishes granted as part of the nonprofit’s Summer of Wishes campaign.
The three girls, Christia Dozier, 9, Ariadna Perez, 15, and Kristen Dahl, 17, all have life-threatening diseases. The girls and their families had been told they were celebrating the new partnership between Make-A-Wish and Lake Las Vegas with a yacht cruise around the lake.
But before they boarded the boat, volunteers held up hand-drawn posters to reveal that all three girls would be granted their wishes to visit Hawaii.
“I was so surprised,” Ariadna said. The East Career Technical Academy student will get a chance to swim with dolphins on her vacation. She also wants to try snorkeling, she said.
“Well, I like tropical weather,” she said. “Especially living in the desert.”
Ariadna has undergone many surgeries for a congenital heart disorder, but she said she still lives like a normal teenage girl, more or less.
“There’s not a lot that I can’t do,” she said.
Christia, who was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia when she was 2, said she will take her mom, sister and niece to Hawaii, and she wants to watch them hula together.
She needs a blood transfusion every four weeks, and each transfusion requires a nationwide search to find a donor who is a genetic match.
When asked how she felt about the chance to visit Hawaii, the quiet, home-schooled girl smiled wide and exclaimed, “It’s awesome,” even though she’d already figured out the surprise by the time she saw the yacht.
“I knew one day I’d go,” she said.
Kristen is a singer with cystic fibrosis, which affects her respiratory and digestive systems. She said she’s amazed by the beauty of stingrays and hopes to swim with manta rays.
“It’s like Make-A-Wish,” she said. “There’s the normal ones, stingrays, and then there’s manta rays, which are so big — just huge. They take something small and make it so, so big.”
The Southern Nevada branch of Make-A-Wish plans to grant 175 wishes by the end of its fiscal year in August, Vice President of Community Relations Nina Radetich said.
“The wish experience overall is powerful,” she said. “From an impact perspective, you see a real change. The kids have something to look forward to, they’re more receptive to treatment and their health can improve.”
During the previous fiscal year, the foundation granted more than 140 wishes. Radetich said there are always more wishes to grant, though.
“There are so many children, unfortunately, in our community that need us. We want to grant as many wishes as we can.”
Kristen, a Las Vegas Academy senior, said support from programs like Make-A-Wish help her feel like she’s “more part of the world,” despite the daily challenges she faces.
“It makes me feel stronger than what I have.”