When Illiana wished to go to New York City and see the infamous Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree 10 years ago, she never realized that she would forever be connected to Make-A-Wish Arizona.
“I had never traveled anywhere on the East Coast so for me, my wish was a huge deal,” said Illiana. “I loved watching the Home Alone movies while growing up and was always fascinated with the snow during Christmas.”
“In the second movie, he goes to New York City and I wanted to see the big Christmas tree in real life and experience the city.”
Illiana and her family flew to New York City where they were able to see the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, and spend time seeing the city lights during the Christmas season.
“I fell in love with the idea of having changing seasons and being able to celebrate the Christmas spirit with snow,” she said. “It was great to be there with my family.”
Not long after Illiana’s trip to New York, she was offered a softball scholarship at a college in New Jersey.
“Experiencing New York made building my future so much easier, so when I got offered a full-ride I knew right away I had to say yes.”
Now, 29-years-old, Illiana has returned to Arizona and decided to use her volunteer time as a wish granter. She and her aunt now go out to homes with children just like she used to be, and help to bring them the same happiness Illiana had on her wish experience.
Illiana and her aunt’s first wish kid was Kevin, who wishes to go to Disneyland and meet Lightning McQueen.
“Just to see how excited he was when my aunt and I told him his wish was granted makes it really feel like I have come full circle,” Illiana said. “I totally know just how he is feeling and I love that I’m a part of that excitement.”
Now 11-years cancer free, Illiana loves giving back to Make-A-Wish Arizona.
“Make-A-Wish is something special and I want to provide that for every kid who, like me, needs something to get them through the tough times of their illness.”