It has always been Emma’s wish to visit Osaka, Japan during cherry blossom season.
In fact, while undergoing treatment for leukemia, just the idea of seeing the beautiful trees in full bloom gave the then 11-year-old Emma something positive to work toward and helped her fight.
“Emma’s wish was something our entire family could look forward to, particularly Emma when she was down,” said Ildi, Emma’s mom. “We talked about her wish all the time, as often as we could and Emma’s wish made her push harder during her treatments, including physical therapy.”
During her two and half years of chemotherapy, Emma focused on planning things she hoped to do on her trip and places she could visit.
“I’m an adventurous eater and I was excited to eat the kind of sushi we don’t have in America,” said Emma, who also enjoys drawing styles of Japanese Manga and Anime.
“Japan is the one place in the world that has all my favorite things,” she continued. “But I knew I wanted to visit in the springtime because that is when the cherry blossoms are blooming.”
Megan, one of Emma’s wish granters, can still remember the day she visited Emma with a Japanese artwork calendar, complete with wish countdown, to reveal that her wish was coming true.
“Throughout these incredibly difficult obstacles with her health, Emma would smile and check off another day on her calendar, bringing her closer to her wish,” said Megan. “I was surprised at how much Emma knew about the Japanese culture and history, which is how I know there was no better wish for her.”
This spring, Emma’s wish came true.
Full of excitement, she flew to Japan with her mom, dad, and little sister Abby, and they were transported into an entirely new world with all of Emma’s favorite things – like anime, video games, thrill rides and sushi!
“The cherry blossoms were a big part of my trip, because they added so much beauty to everything. There was a cherry blossom tree right outside of my hotel overlooking the river, and it looked so gorgeous,” Emma said.
“As a mom, it was such an amazing experience to see my two daughters take risks in a new environment and culture. We wouldn’t have been able to do that without Make-A-Wish,” Ildi said.
Emma’s family did plenty of fun activities throughout the week, like attending a traditional tea ceremony, exploring shrines and even eating sea urchins for the first time.
“The sea urchin was really good and really different, almost like a nutty kind of flavor,” Emma said.
One of the funniest moments Emma recalls from her wish was throwing bread into a shrine pond filled with ducks and gold koi fish.
“At first, only a few ducks seemed to notice the bread, but then I accidentally dropped the rest of my loaf in, and suddenly a swarm of koi fish and ducks charged the food!” she said.
“My favorite part of my wish was definitely the ramen and the cherry blossoms. I ate so much ramen while I was in Japan, and the cherry blossoms made everything pretty. I would have been disappointed if I couldn’t have seen them,” Emma said.
Since her wish, Emma has finished seventh grade and says she is most looking forward to relaxing this summer and playing video games. She is also back in the swing of things with a musical theatre camp that allows her to re-start ballet, something she had to stop during her treatment.
But for Emma and her family, her wish remains an experience they will never forget.
“I could list all the things I loved forever and ever. It was a little crazy to me that I was able to do so much stuff, but it was all really fun and meant a lot to me.”