When it comes to creating a unique wish experience, very little can compete with swimming pigs.
So, when wish kid Sydney put out the ask to her volunteer wish granters Emily and Mackenzie to visit the swimming pigs of the Bahamas, they sprang into action to create a wish experience just as unique as her request.
“I love the beach. I know my family loves the beach and I wanted to make sure my wish was something we could do together,” said Sydney. “But I also wanted it to be different than the other beach vacations we took to Mexico or to Hawaii. And then I saw the pigs on a few celebrity Instagram accounts I follow and I knew that was what I wished to do.”
By “the pigs," Sydney is referring to a special experience in the Bahamas where tourists take a boat out to Big Major Cay, an uninhabited island that is home to more than 20 pigs and piglets.
“I had no idea what it would really be like and it was totally different than what I would have ever thought possible,” said Sydney.
“Swimming with pigs was not really on our radar when Sydney first started talking about it,” said her mom, Alenda. “But once she focused on that as her wish, we couldn’t have asked for a better experience.”
A wish wasn’t really on the family’s radar either until Sydney’s heart murmur developed into something much worse. In the early months of her sophomore year of high school, Sydney’s cardiologist discovered and diagnosed Sydney with a heart defect that prohibited the heart from drawing enough internal electricity needed to ensure the next beat would occur.
“Sydney had a big scare and after we were rushed to the hospital, the doctors put her on beta blockers which really affected her personality,” said Alenda. “She had to quit cheer, quit tumbling, and her personality changed. The medications threw her into a depression and I wasn’t sure if anything would work to pull her out.”
It was about that time that Alenda decided to talk with Sydney about referring her for a wish.
“We had been told her condition was very rare and it was recommended we go to the Mayo Clinic in Minneapolis to see the leading cardiologist associated with her specific condition,” said Alenda. “I was praying that we would figure out a way to bring our Sydney back from her dark thoughts and Make-A-Wish just kept coming up in my mind. I think God was telling me it was the answer.”
Alenda and Sydney both agree that being approved for the wish, and researching all the options, gave Sydney the focus she needed to get past her surgery and break out of her depression.
“Having a wish really lifted my spirits, it helped me to get excited about something again,” said Sydney. “And the wish itself was so extravagant. It was like no other family vacation we ever took.”
Sydney’s wish included a week at Atlantis and her all-day swimming adventure with the pigs, which also included feeding iguanas and swimming with sharks.
“The pigs came right up to the boat and we jumped into the water with them,” said Sydney. “The people gave us bread to feed them and the pigs followed anyone who had any bread.”
Sydney and her family swam with the pigs for a while and cuddled some of the piglets before they headed out to a marina where they could swim with nurse sharks. Alenda said the shark swimming was a highlight for her.
“Sydney was a terrified with the sharks but she still jumped right in with us as we worked our way into the water,” said Alenda. “The first time one got close, though, she jumped into my arms and it was perfect. My not-so-little girl was climbing on me to get away, laughing at herself, and I felt like we were finally back to Sydney being Sydney again.”
Today, Sydney relives her wish often as an ambassador for Make-A-Wish at Northern Arizona University, where she is a freshman and a new member of Chi Omega, a women's fraternity that contributes to Make-A-Wish as their charity of choice.
“My wish was life-changing and when I arrived at NAU and realized that Chi O raised funds for kids like me, I knew I had to be a part of it,” said Sydney. “I know what a wish can do when you need it most and I will be forever thankful. Now I want to give another kid like me that same feeling.”
Plus, she said, everyone loves her unique wish experience. “The pigs always steal the show.”