Walt Disney World vacation a reality for 26 families with help from Northwest Airlines
Disney Dreams will come true after all for four Northwest Indiana families whose Make-A-Wish trips seemed doomed after ATA flight cutbacks.
Make-A-Wish Foundation in Indianapolis had planned to fly 36 families of children with life-threatening illnesses to Disney World. Only 10 made the flights before ATA had to scroll back favors for budget reasons.
But this week Northwest Airlines pooled unused frequent flyer miles and donated tickets for 11 of the 26 remaining Make-A-Wish families.
Four families from Lake County will be flying to Florida in the next 45 days, said Make-A-Wish spokesman Matt Ferch.
Northwest has come forward to pick up a portion of the flights for free. We are still working with both ATA and Northwest to receive frequent flyer miles and ticket vouchers for the others. Recently, some people have given monetary donations to help.
Of the 185 trip requests that Make-A-Wish grants each year, Disney World remains the most popular destination, Ferch said.
The trip will bring joy to Takeithia Alexander, 16, of Gary, who was diagnosed with lupus two years ago.
This will be the first Disney World trip for all of us, gushed Takeithias mom, Marilyn Alexander, on Friday.
Theyll leave March 4. Going are parents Marilyn and Keith Sr., Takeithia, and her four siblings: Keith Jr., 12; Alicia, 20; Tiffany, 21; and Armand, 22.
I think this trip is going to bring us all together and give us some lasting memories, the mother said.
Make-A-Wish did a wonderful job.
The family is looking forward to amusement rides, fun hotels, unique restaurants, and maybe a few celebrities. But most of all, they hope Disney will be emotional therapy.
The once-energetic Takeithia must now be home-schooled and has been very depressed lately. She doesnt do much of anything. Her disease is very active. I think shes kind of afraid.
She had a couple of friends that she lost to lupus at La Rabida Childrens Hospital. Shes in a shell,now, Marilyn said.
In 2002, while a student at Gary Tolleston, Takeithia began noticing swelling in her ankles, arms and legs.
She would complain of being stiff and fatigued all the time. Doctors said to give her Motrin ... but after a bunch of tests, they shipped her to Childrens Hospital.
Thats when they found out she had lupus. The news devastated the close family.
Its still a dream to me, I cant believe it, Marilyn said. Shes had chemo treatments, but shes going to need a lot more IV therapy.
Doctors dont know her chances of recovery.
It will depend on how the body responds, her mother said. Shes trying to exercise and eat right, but sometimes she doesnt even get out of bed because shes so weak.
Takeithia takes four medications a day. Instead of despairing, the family remains hopeful.
We are going to enjoy this trip and take our minds off of whats going on for a little while, Alexander said.
ATA remains a partner with Make-A-Wish, which praised the airline for its past efforts.
ATA has been so amazing and generous to Make-A-Wish by not only donating so many free flights over the years, but also by making our wish families feel like royalty, said Joni Thompson, executive director of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Indiana.
Want to help?
Donate to: Make-a-Wish Foundation
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