The first time Julie saw snow, she was strapped to a gurney in a medevac headed from Hawaii to Seattle. It would’ve made sense to feel scared. Instead, as she glanced out the window into the night sky, she saw the gentle flakes floating down and found peace.
Less than a month earlier, Julie’s heart was functioning at just 10 percent of its normal capacity. Her illness had come on suddenly and unexpectedly, and what her parents thought was a cold turned out to be cardiomyopathy. From that moment on, Julie’s entire life revolved around her health.
After her relocation to another hospital, doctors were better able to care for Julie. Still, the transition still took its toll. Her parents lived at a Ronald McDonald House while she received treatments. “It was a new, entirely different routine of medications, doctor appointments, lab work, therapy,” says Lori, Julie’s mother.
Wishing Her Well
During this difficult time, their family’s social worker was the first to recommend that Julie fill out a referral for Make-A-Wish. Caught in a whirlwind of medical worries, Lori had not even considered the possibility. However, she wanted Julie to be able to choose for herself, so she postponed the decision until her health improved.
The social worker had laid the foundation – now, all that was needed was time to let it set. Sure enough, just two months after being placed on the waiting list, Julie learned she would receive a heart. She chose to continue the wish process as soon as she recovered from her transplant.
Two wish-granting volunteers, Mark and Sandra, helped Julie discover her one true wish. When they asked her to dream freely, she thought back to that moment on the medevac and the snow that brought her such peace. She realized that she wanted to go to see snow in Japan and to connect with her ancestral roots.
Reveling in the Reveal
Julie’s wish reveal was a triple celebration. Not only did she find out where she was going, but it was also her 14th birthday and Macy’s National Believe Day. Over 50 other wish kids also learned that their wish had been granted that same day.
A giant crowd amassed at Macy’s Ala Moana to support the wish kids with a Japanese-themed celebration. A fellow wish kid, 4-year-old Soya, brought his drum troupe. Donning yellow headbands and outfits, they made music alongside taiko drummers and Hongwanji dancers. An ice sculpture concealed Julie’s boarding pass for the plane ride to Japan. Upon seeing the pass, Julie broke into an elated smile.
The wish reveal had a definitive impact on Julie’s emotional well-being. “It was like a sensation of all kinds of feelings, like happiness, excitement … mostly happiness and excitement. It was just great to see this happen, and I really didn’t expect anything, either,” Julie said. Her mother shared that the knowledge of the upcoming wish motivated her daughter to go back to school after having skipped for several months.
Sculpting in Sapporo
Once in Japan, Julie acted as the “lucky charm” for the Sheraton Waikiki ice sculpting team at the Sapporo Snow Festival. She watched Team Hawaii transform a giant block of ice into a beautiful sculpture and even built a small snowman of her own. At the end of the competition, Team Hawaii scored 4th place and Julie accepted the award onstage alongside her new friends.
After her wish, much more fun was ahead! She enjoyed the winter weather by going snow tubing and making snow angels. Then, she got to experience the rest of Sapporo with her family, trying new foods and taking in the sights of the city.
The trip ended on a perfect note when Julie saw the “ema,” or wooden prayer plaques, outside the Tokyo Tower. Normally, people use ema to wish for something, but Julie wanted to take this moment to reflect upon the day she had just experienced. She wrote her story on a heart-shaped ema and left it as her little present back to Sapporo.
Julie’s mother wants people to understand what the wish has done for her daughter. “After the wish experience, a wish lives on,” said Lori. “It’s something we will never forget; we talk about it all the time. And when something reminds Julie of the trip, it immediately brings a smile to her face. It gave her a real happy ending and set her on her path of healing.”