Helping Make Wishes Come True

Fourteen-year-old Precious Rivera gets her wish to be a princess. Photo from Kulana Malama

Fourteen-year-old Precious Rivera gets her wish to be a princess. Photo from Kulana Malama

Fourteen-year-old Precious Rivera made a wish to be a princess, and last Friday that wish came true.

Dressed in a beautiful white gown and satin gloves, she was the star at a “princess parade” at Macy’s Ala Moana, organized by Make-A-Wish Hawaii and Macy’s. The celebration took place on what’s known as National Believe Day, when Macy’s and Make-A-Wish grant more than 50 special wishes across America to children with life-threatening medical conditions.

Rivera, who has congenital hypotonia, which limits her ability to move, also had wished for an electric wheel-chair, which Make-A-Wish recently granted as well.

“She had initially asked to meet Zack and Cody from Disney, but it couldn’t be granted because of scheduling and logistics, so this was her second wish,” explains Waynell Hee-Goodman, director of social services at Kulana Malama in Ewa Beach. “She likes everything Disney princess. She likes everything very pink and purple and yellow.

“She’s a normal teenager, but her muscle weakness really limits her ability to communicate easily and her ability to move, which is why the wish for the electric wheel-chair made total sense, because it gives her independence that she never had before.”

A freshman at James Campbell High School, Rivera shares the same likes and dislikes many girls her age would have. Among the things she enjoys are music, television, Nintendo Wii, using her iPad and the company of others, especially other teens, notes her mom, Alison “Allie” Pascua, a dental hygienist.

But Rivera also lives a life of many challenges. According to Hee-Goodman, she has profound muscle weakness and can’t move her upper arms or legs, is unable to swallow her own saliva and needs frequent oral suction. She also cannot eat by mouth and receives her nutrition through a gastrostomy tube. She is on a ventilator around the clock to help her breathe, and a nurse accompanies her throughout the entire day. She also can’t roll over or sit up, but is able to hold her head up at times. She can move her tongue and say some words, but can’t speak loudly. And she can’t walk, but is able to move her hands allowing her to use an iPad and TV remote control.

Rivera also as two younger sisters, Hope and Faith, and a brother named Trustin who also had congenital hypotonia and passed away five years ago at age 4.

“Precious is very resilient,” says Hee-Goodman. “She has excellent cognition, and she’s very intelligent and alert.

“When she first got into her new wheelchair and realized it was an electric, she was so excited to move around. We are thankful to Make-A-Wish for helping Precious achieve some form of independence, because it really has improved her quality of life.

“Her biggest challenge now is really communication. She can communicate, but it’s hard for people to understand, so we’re trying to work on a communication device that can help her express herself easier.”

Macy’s National Believe Day is part of the retailer’s Believe campaign, which invites children of all ages to mail their letters to Santa using Macy’s red Santa Mail letterboxes. For every letter mailed now through Dec. 24, Macy’s will donate $1, up to $1 million to Make-A-Wish. Macy’s also donated $1 to Make-A-Wish for every letter that was mailed on National Believe Day, up to $1 million, and above the existing $1 million goal for the campaign, generating up to $2 million in total for Make-A-Wish during this year’s campaign.

Make-A-Wish Hawaii was founded in 1982 and has granted more than 900 wishes to children in Hawaii. Locally, there currently are more than 100 children with life-threatening medical conditions waiting for their wish to come true. According to Make-A-Wish, these wishes will give them something to focus on outside of the medical experience and bring the joy of childhood back to them.

“Precious is so bright and smart,” adds Hee-Goodman. “When you look at her, you might not think that because she’s so quiet, but she has such a sharp mind and is just really brave, and that’s what I would want people to take away from their experience when they see her. She’s very precious and wonderful to be around.”