Pyper, 4, is a spunky and energetic kid who loves to play and dress up like a princess. But when she was diagnosed with a rare tumor, rounds of chemotherapy drained her spirit to the point where her family hardly recognized her anymore.
“Chemo was the hardest part of this journey. I saw my daughter go from a bubbly, happy toddler to a kid who would just sit on the couch and lackadaisically watch movies,” said her mom, Katie. “She didn’t play and couldn’t really understand what was going on. All she knew was something beyond her control was happening to her.”
Two years ago, Pyper completely came off of her medications, but her tumor regrew to massive size, encroaching on her spinal nerve and causing her to lose her ability to walk.
That’s when their case worker, knowing Pyper and her family needed some hope and inspiration, referred her for a wish.
“I knew right away what my wish would be! I wanted to meet Cinderella at Disney World because she’s my favorite and I love to play with princess dolls!” said Pyper.
“I was blown away when I heard her wish would be coming true and I was almost in tears when we received the credit card with extra money on it,” said Katie. “That was a huge, unexpected blessing.”
The wish began with a pick-up from the Make-A-Wish “shuttle,” which was actually a white limousine.
“When the kids saw the limo they lost their minds,” said Katie. “I always knew Make-A-Wish was a fantastic organization, but my perception of it is so much grander now that we’ve experienced it.”
Pyper’s family flew to Florida and stayed for the week at Give Kids the World Village, where they participated in many activities, including days at Walt Disney World and Sea World.
“We were really surprised at the depth of Pyper’s wish and we didn’t know it would include so much more than Walt Disney World,” said Katie. “We watched the movie Inside Out a lot during Pyper’s treatment, so watching her meet Joy was really special. She’s also a huge Frozen fan, and now whenever she sees the trailer for the new movie, she screams ‘mommy! I got to meet them!’”
Another highlight for Pyper was meeting Doc McStuffins, a stuffed animal doctor on Disney Channel.
“Pyper actually has her checkup kit, including toy versions of a stethoscope, thermometer, and hypodermic needle, which actually helped her feel more comfortable going to doctors' offices once she was diagnosed, so that was another great character to meet,” she continued.
Looking back on the experience, Katie says Pyper’s wish gave her daughter a piece of her childhood back.
“Wishes give families hope, happiness, and extreme joy in dark times and since her wish, Pyper is back to her silly, goofy, happy self,” said Katie. “We were able to escape doctor’s offices for a short time and watch Pyper experience pure joy. I was on cloud 9 the whole time. Even when it rained – a rarity for us Arizonans - she remained happy and engaged.”
While Pyper’s condition is something she will always have to live with, her mom hopes to have her doctor’s blessing to lower her medication dose and be medication-free by March. And even though she’s not at Walt Disney World anymore, her dreams of becoming a princess are still going strong.
“Pyper enjoys dressing up and going to ballet class every week and she’s looking forward to starting speech therapy and preschool,” said Katie. “She ‘looks normal,’ so most of the time no one can believe what she’s been through, but she tells anyone who will listen about her wish come true and meeting her favorite princess, Cinderella.”