Jessica, Joe, five-year-old Grady and seven-year-old Lyddie Marunowski left for a trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios last Saturday morning, courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Lyddie, who has leukemia, is a fan of Harry Potter, and the trip was arranged to fulfill her wish to visit the theme parks in Florida as she recuperates from chemotherapy treatments. (Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
November 20, 2012PLYMOUTH — Clear skies and crisp temperatures made for a beautiful send off as the Marunowski family grabbed their bags and headed for the sunny warmth of Florida last weekend, fulfilling the wish of seven-year-old Lydia who wanted to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios.
Having recently finished chemotherapy treatments for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, Lyddie, as she prefers to be called, is on the road to recovery from her illness. Her blood counts are "looking great," said her mom Jessica, and when the Make-A-Wish Foundation said they would grant Lyddie a wish as she recuperates, it was Florida and Harry Potter that immediately came to mind.
"Lyddie just loves Harry Potter. For Halloween this year, she was Hermione (a character in the books)," she said.
Even though Lyddie has spent a lot of time in hospitals over the past two and a half years, she has not let her illness get her down. The bright young girl kept up her studies, and even managed to skip second grade, moving on to third grade this year instead. At home, she also began reading the Harry Potter series, generally read by older children and adults.
"I finished the third book last night," she said on Saturday morning.
And, just in case she needed something to do on the plane, the fourth book was tucked neatly into her backpack.
After hearing about Lyddie and her love of Harry Potter, long time volunteer Darlene Fritz worked with Miss New Hampshire 2012 Megan Lyman and Make-A-Wish Director of Volunteer Services, Nikki Lyons, to make that wish come true.
The process started in June, as arrangements were made to send Lyddie, her five-year-old brother Grady, mom, and dad Joe to Orlando for a stay at Animal Kingdom.
On Nov. 1, Fritz, Lyman and Lyons stopped in to give the family their itinerary for the theme parks and a stay at Animal Kingdom, expense money for the trip, and some special gifts.
"Meg made some really cute Mickey Mouse-shaped Oreo and chocolate lollipops," said Lyons. "We had other little things for the kids, too, like a Countdown Chain we made. It has fun facts about Disney for them to read every day while they're there."
On Saturday, the surprises kept on coming. The family all wore their new Make-A-Wish tee shirts, the kids had their backpacks stuffed with snacks for the trip and, as mom and dad were about to settle in to the huge chauffeur-driven Suburban that would take them to the airport, they received some special treats, too.
"Here's some coffee and snacks and (a few other things) as well," said Lyons, who handed them a bag filled with gifts just for them.
Jessie and Joe were overwhelmed with the generosity of the women who worked so hard to give their family a break from hospitals and the daily stress of raising a family with a child who is ill.
"I can't believe all of this is real," said Jessie, with a tear in her eye. "After two and a half years of chemo, to go off on a trip like this is wonderful. Just wonderful."
Lyddie and Grady were eager to see the rides, fireworks, Harry Potter, and the beaches and pools, but the entire family also looked forward to one other big event in the week ahead.
"As an extended part of Lyddie's wish, we get to stay an extra day," said Jessie. "Their grandmother and PopPop are coming from South Carolina next Saturday, and we'll get together with them and the rest of the family while we're there."
Lyddie was very excited about that part of the wish, as she hasn't seen some of her family members since she was diagnosed at the age of four.
"It won't be just Harry Potter World, I get to see Dolly and PopPop, too," she said with a big smile.
Fritz said she has been granting wishes for the past 21 years, and really enjoyed getting to know the Marunowskis. She said the families become very special to her and she could never give back all the joy she receives from each of them.
"When you grant just one child a wish, you're hooked. I love doing this, and this is just a great family. It's been so good to get to know them," Fritz said.
Joe was full of gratitude for the foundation that made Lyddie's wish come true and said he was looking forward to the warm Florida temperatures and some much needed fun and relaxation with his family.
"We're really blessed. Not just Make-A-Wish, but this whole community has been wonderful," he said. "It's good to have a happy ending."
More information on the Make-A-Wish Foundation and their mission to bring smiles to children with serious illnesses can be found at www.wish.org.