For as long as she can remember, 8-year-old Ava has enjoyed watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with her family.
This is a tradition her whole family enjoys, but in the years ahead, Ava has to face another recurring event — battling tumors growing in her body.
“Ava has a genetic condition that causes tumors to grow on nerves throughout her body,” said her mom, Lindsay. “They call it the ‘hurry up and wait disorder’ because you never know where or when you might develop a tumor.”
It wasn’t until Ava’s doctors discovered a tumor on her left eye that Lindsay ever considered Make-A-Wish Arizona.
“I thought wishes only were for terminally ill children, so I was surprised when Ava qualified for a wish,” said Lindsay. “You look at Ava and you would never know that she’s sick. Despite her condition, she is so full of energy, but this is a disorder that currently has no cure and one that she could be facing all her life."
Thinking about the possibilities of her wish gave Ava something to look forward to during her chemotherapy treatments.
“Ava couldn’t wait to go to New York City because that meant being able to see the Thanksgiving parade and visit the place where the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were born in a sewer,” Lindsay continued, with a laugh. “It was going to be an experience that was unique and special, just for Ava.”
And as the year continued, so did the good news.
In October, Ava learned her wish was coming true live on stage at the Make-A-Wish Arizona Tucson Walk For Wishes and just two weeks before her trip, Ava had her port removed!
“We had never been to New York City so it was fun to see our anticipation and planning finally become a reality,” said Lindsay. “When we arrived, the fall colors were so beautiful and the weather was perfect.”
Throughout the week, Ava and her family had fun exploring nearly everything New York City has to offer. They visited the Empire State Building, spent time on the ferry and the subway, ate in Little Italy, toured the Museum of Modern Art and walked around Central Park.
“I rode the carousel six times and I really liked the Statue of Liberty,” said Ava. “We went to the M&M'S store and I even got to make my own candies with my name on them.”
Of course, Ava’s trip wouldn’t be complete without her favorite part - experiencing the big parade!
On Thanksgiving, her family watched the parade from the sixth floor of Macy’s and they were able to go to the balloon inflating where Ava could see and touch the floats up close.
“It warmed our hearts to see Ava’s sense of adventure and wonder the entire time during her wish trip but especially watching the parade,” said Lindsay. “Experiencing something I grew up watching when I was a child and now doing it with Ava is an amazing feeling.”
Ava enjoyed taking in all the sights, but one balloon definitely caught her eye right away.
“I LOVE the Pillsbury doughboy balloon because I love pizza, I love cookies and I love cinnamon rolls!” said Ava, who proudly shared that she ate pizza every single day of her trip.
“We also went to a great edible cookie dough shop called Cookie Dough Confections,” said Lindsay. “Make-A-Wish Arizona let them know we were coming and they gave us all these treats. Ava loved it so much that we needed an extra bag to carry it all!”
Ava and her family spent the evening of Thanksgiving having dinner at Rock Center Cafe, with the iconic view of Rockefeller Center's ice skating rink and Christmas Tree.
“The spirit of the season was beautiful,” said Lindsay. “Ava will remember this for a long time and it has really been a life-changing experience for her. Especially because we never would have been able to do something like this for Ava without Make-A-Wish Arizona."
Now back home, Ava is in the second grade and doing great. Although her family doesn’t know what they can expect from Ava’s condition, they continue to hope and pray for more good news in the years ahead.
"I'm just so thankful that we were able to experience a trip like this when Ava is happy and healthy,” said Lindsay. “We did almost everything on our to-do list and we would like to go back to New York someday when Ava is older. It has become a place that holds so many memories and means so much to our family."