16-year-old Alivia has a lot in common with other high school girls. She loves music, dancing, listening to her favorite bands, and watching her favorite TV shows. But unlike her peers, Alivia has to deal every day with the symptoms of celiac and Crohn’s disease.
When she was just eight years old, Alivia got very sick in the middle of the school day. For the next year, Alivia suffered from flare-ups of a high fever, swelling of her hands and legs, and severe intestinal pains, something doctors first told her was lactose intolerance. When a change of diet did nothing to relieve the symptoms, Alivia received an endoscopy and finally a diagnosis – celiac and Crohn’s disease.
These diseases of the digestive system cause chronic pain, bloating, and other physical problems. To keep the symptoms at bay, Alivia must eat a special gluten-free diet and keep her stress to a minimum to avoid flare-ups. But the symptoms sometimes become too much, and Alivia has to spend up to a week in the hospital to feel normal again. Rather than going to parties, Alivia and her family spend most of their time together meeting with a network of medical support, including a heart specialist and gastroenterologist.
During one of these treatments, Alivia’s mom, Charlene, received a call from Make-A-Wish – her one true wish was going to come true!
“When we got the phone call from Make-A-Wish, I started to cry my eyes out," said Alivia's mom. "I was just so ecstatic that the doctor was able to send the referral for our daughter.”
While she first thought about meeting her favorite band, Alivia ultimately decided she wanted her wish to include a more fun and exciting way to spend time with her family outside her condition. So, her thoughts turned to a tradition in her family, something that every girl in her community dreams of: a quinceañera.
With the help of Make-A-Wish staff, volunteers, and community partner WestCor Companies, Alivia got to work planning the party of her dreams.
“It was crazy at first, picking the dancers and choosing the cake and the dress, and how my hairstyle would be, and my makeup,” Alivia said. “We went to the banquet hall and the girl was showing me [dresses] and I saw this beautiful blue dress. I told her that I wanted that and I got it. It was pretty cool!”
All the planning paid off. Decked out in the poofy dress she had picked out and with her nails and hair done - including hair extensions! - as she had always imagined, Alivia embarked on a day to remember. Following the traditional church ceremony, Alivia and her family posed for professional photos at the Bellagio before heading to the party.
There, Alivia danced the night away. Alivia’s friends and family had worked for weeks with a choreographer, and they performed to perfection the night of the event. She danced with her mom, grandpa and stepdad, enjoying an evening she had only imagined come in front her eyes. Alivia saw herself as Cinderella, and this was her own special ball.
There will still be days when Alivia is sidelined with pain and physical limitations. But having this kind of memory to hold - a day of being a princess, a day filled with fun and family – will certainly be something to help lift Alivia’s spirits and keep her going.
If you’d like to be part of helping wishes like Alivia’s come true, click here.