Alyssa and I prepare for our princess primp session at the Princess Academy in Folsom.
Editor’s note: Make-A-Wish, Wells Fargo, Disney, and many others helped grant 7-year-old Alyssa’s wish to go on a Disney Cruise Line® cruise, and more. Her Make-A-Wish princess weekend began in Folsom, California, during the Folsom Pro Rodeo. Covering the story, I met Alyssa’s mom, Terry, and invited her to share her story here on the Wells Fargo Blog. For more on Alyssa’s story, visit the Wells Fargo Stories website.
By Terry Kalb
Alyssa: “Mommy, do you think my wish is going to come true?”
Me: “I don’t know. You have to believe.”
This was a conversation I had in April with my daughter, Alyssa, after we visited The Wishing Place at Make-A-Wish Northeastern California and Northern Nevada in Sacramento.
Alyssa had four wishes: to be a princess; to go on a Disney cruise; to meet her favorite country music star; and to have a pair of “cowgirl boots.”
Alyssa leads the way as we practice our princess waves in downtown Folsom.
Once she wrote her wishes down, Alyssa got a key to unlock the door to the magical wish room. Music played about making a wish. She put her key in the keyhole of the wishing well, and made her wishes.
The lead-up to the big surprise (Make-A-Wish granting one of those wishes) began July 2 when she rode down Sutter Street in the Folsom Pro Rodeo’s annual parade and cattle drive as the 2014 “Folsom Pro Rodeo Princess.”
Our family and another Make-A-Wish recipient rode in the Wells Fargo stagecoach. The kids were pumped and overwhelmed by all the attention. Alyssa waved to the fans and truly felt like a princess. She thought that was her fulfilled wish!
However, her dad, Rick, and I knew the big moment was set to come the next evening at the rodeo, but even we didn’t know exactly what would happen. We started that day with breakfast, followed by a trip to the Folsom Zoo — where we’ve ridden the train every year since Alyssa’s big sister, Alexis, was a baby — and then a waterpark before I got a call. Would the girls and I like a princess makeover, too?
How far we’ve come: Celebrating Alyssa’s fifth birthday together as a family in the hospital in 2012.
We soon found ourselves heading to The Princess Academy in downtown Folsom, which was funny because we had walked by it on the way to breakfast and taken the kids’ pictures in front of the sign.
The girls and I spent a few hours there and it turned out to be Alyssa’s favorite part of the weekend.
Alyssa and Alexis picked out their princess dresses and had their hair and nails done and their faces painted while sipping tea, snacking on mini cupcakes, and listening to Disney movie soundtracks.
The owner told the girls that they already were princesses and beautiful for who they were. She was just bringing out the inner-beauty they already possessed. What a wonderful message to hear because I’ve told that to my children so many times myself. Alyssa has had to deal with some children who have not been very nice to her, and some former friends who fell by the wayside this past year.
We rode into the Dan Russell Rodeo Arena in a white carriage.
At The Princess Academy, even Mommy played dress-up because the girls wanted me to, and why not, I thought to myself? You need to make the best of all these moments because they can be gone in the blink of an eye.
The owner and her daughter took us out on Sutter Street to practice walking and waving like a princess. Alyssa had so much fun, and truly enjoyed the moment. We learned how to blow a kiss to the cars. Our princess lessons finished, we headed back to reality to get ready for our ball: the Folsom Pro Rodeo.
Just before sunset, we climbed into a white princess carriage and entered the Dan Russell Rodeo Arena. We waved to the crowd as the carriage stopped in the center. A former rodeo queen took Alyssa’s hand and escorted her off as we followed. Princes, princesses, fairy godmothers, and fairies began to file down the stairs toward us from the crowd, carrying gifts in pink bags.
The fairy godmother talked about how fairies had been with Alyssa through this journey (I took her large chemotherapy pills, broke them up into a dust, and put it in her apple juice, which I said was pixie dust medicine from fairies to make her feel better, and also left little gifts and notes of encouragement.).
As soon as she heard she was going on a Disney Cruise Line cruise, Alyssa bolted into my arms for a big hug, and we enjoyed the moment.
They sprinkled “pixie dust” over Alyssa and asked her to close her eyes. Then the fairy godmother (Wells Fargo’s Karen Woodruff) told Alyssa about the wish granted by Make-A-Wish: She was going on a Disney cruise.
In two seconds, Alyssa turned around and ran up to me and gave me the biggest hug. She was so excited and had tears in her eyes. We stayed afterwards to watch the rodeo and fireworks. That was the latest the kids had ever stayed up.
When we arrived back at our hotel, Alyssa, Alexis, and their brother Ricky eagerly unwrapped the gifts. Alyssa paused and told me, so sweet and innocently, “Mommy, the prince kissed my hand!”
As parents, Rick and I are delighted and overwhelmed by how these events unfolded, from meeting with Make-A-Wish, to pick out Alyssa’s rodeo outfit weeks earlier, to riding in the Wells Fargo stagecoach, seeing the Wells Fargo team members dressed as princesses, and leaving the rodeo arena in the carriage while rodeo hands held up letters that spelled PRINCESS ALYSSA.
While on our cruise Sept. 20-26, Alyssa enjoyed swimming with a dolphin.
I soon learned that two of the Wells Fargo team members at the rodeo had childhood cancer themselves (Business Banker Josh Hart who was a prince, and his wife, Carly, who dressed as a fairy). And Carly had even been a Make-A-Wish recipient!
Both volunteer for the charity and wanted to be part of Alyssa’s special night because of their own experiences. Which brings me to the point of this post: “So what is the power of a wish granted?”
This mom’s answer after having been blessed personally by this wonderful charity: The hope that better days lie ahead and that there’s sun behind the clouds.
As a family, we’ve all been under an indescribable amount of stress, and cancer affects everyone. This past summer marked the first time in two years, for example, that we could enjoy simple things like going swimming together as a family.
Even as a 7-year-old, Alyssa understands the reason she has this Make-A-Wish opportunity is because of her brain tumor. Looking forward to her wish kept her hope alive that wishes do come true — an idea I’ve reinforced often over the last several months. We need to have hope and faith, and believe. I can’t imagine what our cancer journey would be without it.
Alyssa looks out at the ocean from our ship. It was one of our best vacations ever and a stress-free week.
While it is a slow-growing cancer, Alyssa still has her tumor and has had the first of several MRI scans in the years ahead as her doctors keep watch on the growth. We set sail on our Disney cruise in September — enjoying every moment, making more memories, and continuing to pray our little girl will have a stable tumor and a long life ahead of her. It pains me to think otherwise, and to think I even have that option!
The cruise trip answered all the questions Alyssa asked me right after she’d learned the wish had been granted at the rodeo, whether it was “How many states do we fly over to get to Florida?” Or “How long is the plane ride?” Or “Can we eat dinner with Minnie Mouse?” plus new ones such as, “What’s it like to swim with dolphins?”
Make-A-Wish and Wells Fargo not only made a little girl’s wish come true but lifted the spirits of her entire family.
To everyone who helped make the magic happen for us and for illustrating again the difference people can make by working together, thank you. And a special thanks for our wonderful cruise to Disney, which has helped Make-A-Wish grant more than 88,000 wishes globally since the first official wish to go to the Disneyland® Resort 33 years ago.
Please consider sharing the hope that comes from a wish granted by supporting the Make-A-Wish chapter in your community.