In the beginning of April, Coal City resident Chloe Francisco, 11, was granted a wish by the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Chloe; her mother, Kori; her father, Chris; and her younger sisters, Averi, 8, and Hayden, 4, traveled to Kissimmee, Fla., Sunday, April 1, through Friday, April 6, to visit the Give Kids The World Village and the theme parks in Central Florida.
"I searched online, but I thought we could just go to Give Kids The World, just to vacation there," Kori said. "But we had to go through Make-A-Wish to do it."
Give Kids The World is a non-profit organization that fulfills wishes of children and their families from around the world and allows them "to experience a memorable, joyful, cost-free visit to the Central Florida attractions, and to enjoy the magic of Give Kids The World Village," according to the organization's website, www.gktw.org.
In order to be selected to have a wish granted through Make-A-Wish, a child must be between the ages of 2 1/2 and 18 and must qualify medically.
"When I heard about it before, I always thought (a child's condition needed to be) terminal. I just assumed," Kori said.
But when she heard that another child who rides Chloe's school bus, who has a similar medical condition, had a wish granted, she filled out the referral for her daughter at www.wish.org.
Chloe has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and some kidney issues, Kori said. When Chloe was born, she had a few facial deformities, as well. She had a birth mark and a cleft lip.
"They thought she had a syndrome, but they've never diagnosed her," Kori said. "She's gotten tests done, but they've never found one."
Chloe does not speak and sits in a wheelchair that was custom-made for her. She received a brand new chair just before heading to Florida.
So Kori filled out the information online, representatives from Make-A-Wish called Chloe's doctors to make sure she qualified, and she was chosen.
Although Chloe could not tell her family she wanted to make a wish to visit Walt Disney World, her parents thought it would be best for her.
"We've always called her princess," Kori said.
The Francisco's made their trip to Florida in Kori's parent's RV, but Make-A-Wish paid for the gas to get down south, the lodging for the overnight stay halfway through the trip, and everything while they were in Florida. Meals were covered and Kori said the organization even gave the family money for souvenirs.
As if all of that wasn't enough, some extended family members were able to join the Franciscos, too, making the trip "one in a million."
The extended family was able to visit the Franciscos at Give Kids The World, but did not stay there.
Along for the ride in the RV were Kori's parents, niece, cousin and aunt. Chris' mom, grandma and her husband drove down as well, in another vehicle.
"It was great because we don't always get to take vacations together and it was just nice to have everybody there," Kori said. "They all wanted to be a part of it with (Chloe)."
Chloe didn't stop smiling throughout the whole trip, Kori said, so she and her husband knew Chloe was enjoying herself.
"She has her bad days with seizures, so we just never know what's going to happen," Kori said. "But she was great down there. She didn't have a bad day at all actually."
Chloe received a special treat from Make-A-Wish, too. The organization paid for her and her family to have lunch with Disney characters at Epcot Center. She got to meet the Disney princesses and took pictures with them, too.
Chloe's little sister, Hayden, said she liked the parade and the princesses. Her favorite princess is Cinderella.
The three sisters seemed to enjoy their time at Give Kids The World the most, however. Kori said each time the family went to the parks, the girls asked if they could go back to the Village and swim. In the end, they spent more time at the Village than at the actual parks.
"It was great," Kori said about the entire trip to Florida. "I can't say enough about it."
The Make-A-Wish Foundation will be celebrating World Wish Day Sunday, April 29, the 32nd anniversary of the very first wish granted — a little boy's wish to be a police officer. Celebrations will be held in 48 countries, including the United States.
A special World Wish Day video, including several celebrities, will air on Thomson Reuter’s electronic billboard in Times Square Sunday, but the video can also be viewed on the Make-A-Wish America YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/makeawishfoundation.