Images of boarding planes and exploring California fill the pages of the photo album. Though each snapshot is a glimpse into their trip, a single photo on the center of the page encompasses the wish experience in its entirety.
Like three friends seeing one another after a long time apart, Donnie and Brian are wearing smiles that fill their faces. Captivated by the Disney icon before them, the brothers appear to be unaware of anyone else present. Free of worry or reminders of illness, the brothers are simply two boys experiencing the magic of Disneyland for the first time. With the flashing of a camera, this moment was captured and would serve as a reminder of the trip they would never forget.
Each diagnosed with a rare degenerative disease, 15-year-old Donnie and 10-year-old Brian of Laramie never imaged they would travel to Disneyland. They never imaged they would meet the fictional characters only previously seen on television or feel the thrill of an amusement park ride. Yet because of a wish, they did.
Though the photo’s corners are bent and the image faded by time, the memories made by Donnie, Brian and their family remain untouched. Accompanying her sons nearly 30 years ago to visit Disneyland, Lynn can still recall every detail of her family’s experience.
“It was an experience for all of us,” explains Lynn, “and we enjoyed every bit.” Reflecting on the wish process, Lynn credits Ginger Hicks, Donnie’s teacher and Make-A-Wish® Wyoming volunteer, with the gift her family was given. Describing the experience as nothing short of picturesque, Lynn explains the emotion of watching complete strangers work toward a common goal of bringing hope, strength and joy to her sons.
“It is a rare experience to have two children be given a wish,” explains Lynn. Though their medical condition has limited their ability to verbally communicate, Lynn is certain Donnie and Brian still feel the benefits of their wish today.
“[If they were able to speak] I bet you they could tell you every detail about the wish,” Lynn explained thinking of the joy she sees appear on her sons’ faces at the mention of Disneyland or the wish experience; The type of joy no words can describe.
Much like the memories Lynn fondly recalls, Donnie and Brian’s younger sister, Kim remembers the joy she saw grow within her brothers because of the wish. As a result of the brothers’ conditions, all family members, including Kim, shared the responsibility of care. It is because of her close relationship to Donnie and Brian, Kim understood the value a wish could have both during the experience and beyond.
“I have never seen those boys smile so much,” Kim describes as she thinks back upon the family’s 1986 trip, “It is like we were just there.”
Reliving the excitement she witnessed as her brothers met their mouse-eared heroes, Kim believes this is proof of the value in a wish. With the many challenges Donnie and Brian’s medical conditions brought, the need to celebrate even the smallest victory became a necessity. News of the brothers’ wishes being granted provided the entire family a reason to celebrate.
“The wish is the greatest gift anyone could have given them,” Kim recalled. For Donnie and Brian, who had spent their childhoods overcoming the reality of battling life-threatening medical conditions, a wish was more than a trip to Disneyland; it was the gift of looking forward.
Nearly three decades after their wishes were granted, 44-year-old Donnie and 39-year-old Brian continue to feel the positive impact of their wishes today. Though the photos of their trip to Disneyland may have dulled with time, Lynn and her family are living proof the memory of a wish experience never does.