Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Andrew & Abbie

Next time you think you're having a bad day, think of Andrew and Abbie.

Sheila here, and I met Andrew for the first time last Saturday at the Big Wish Gala for the Make A Wish Foundation. Andrew was the party's honorary Wish Kid. Andrew is 12, and he was born with a rare, debilitating form of dwarfism which affects his spine and legs. Andrew has endured more than 20 surgeries. Not only that, Andrew was born deaf.

You never would know it now when Andrew speaks. He received a cochlear implant when he was three years old, and now Andrew says one of his favorite things to do is give speeches. Andrew was elected president of his fifth grade class, and he's a natural at public speaking. In fact, when the volunteers from Make A Wish asked him what he would most like to do for his wish, Andrew replied, "swim with the dolphins or deliver a political speech on TV."

His multiple surgeries got in the way, but in between those surgeries Andrew was taking tennis lessons, and taking a cue from his younger brother, Noah, a huge tennis fan. Their favorite player is Rafael Nadal. Last summer Andrew was inspired to make a new wish, to meet their favorite player. Within days, our great Cincinnati neighbors, the Western and Southern Financial Group had invited Andrew to the Tennis Masters Tournament in Mason.

Andrew says: "We had a delicious lunch in the hospitality tent, watched some matches from the suite with Mr. Ed Babbit, then came the best thing of all: I got to do the coin toss for the number one tennis player in the world and my hero, Rafael Nadal. Noah and I got to go right out on center court and shake hands with Nadal and his opponent, Julien Benneteau. They were so friendly and they gladly posed for several pictures with us. Then, we got to sit right on the court during their three-set thriller of a match. Of course, my new friend Nadal won, and after the match, he came right over and asked if Noah and I were having a good time. It was truly the best day of my life."

One week later, Make A Wish flew Andrew and his family to New York for the U.S. Open, where he met Roger Federer, Kim Clijsters, and I also ran into his new buddy, Rafael Nadal. Nadal told Andrew, "I remember you from Cincinnati!"
Andrew had spine and leg surgery right after his wish came true. He says "During those tough days in the hospital, my mom and I often talked about my wish experience. Just looking at the pictures of Rafael Nadal and me together in Cincinnati made me happy. Those joyful memories are the things that get me through the hard times."

Abbie of Northern Kentucky has also endured hard times, battling a brain tumor. Abbie is 14, and her wish came from her frustration at not being able to find a handbag which truly fit her personality. Make A Wish made Abbie's wish to create her own designer handbag come true. Clothing company Bebe welcomed her to Los Angeles, where she shopped on Rodeo Drive and worked with Bebe designers on her creation. Stores across the country marketed her bag, and they sold out within days. Abbie donated her very last bag to the live auction at the Wish Ball, and it went for more than $1,000. Now she's hoping to turn her experience into a career when she grows up.

Andrew and Abbie aren't just inspiring because of their stories. Imagine battling a life threatening illness, surgeries, hospitals, and pain, yet still keeping a smile and positive attitude. That's what they do, and so do their families. They didn't just enjoy their wishes and keep happy memories. Now they're giving back. Andrew and Abbie tell others about Make A Wish in the hope that they'll get involved, Andrew has been raising money for the charity. So far he's raised nearly two-thousand dollars to make other kids' wishes come true.

So next time you're having a bad day, think of Andrew and Abbie. They make life's problems seem so small because they focus on life's blessings. You can help more kids like them. The Walk for Wishes is set for June is set for June 18th in Cincinnati, and the time is now to sign up with your team, and we hope you'll help. Here's a link:

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