Gymnastics has been a part of Carleigh’s life ever since she was seven. She was a competitive gymnast in California for eight years and even held the title of “State Champion” at her level several times.
As a young teenager, Carleigh decided to stop practicing gymnastics, although she never lost her passion for the sport and continued as a coach at a local recreation center. Then, at age 16, she was diagnosed with cancer. What started as a stomach pain over the Christmas holiday spiraled suddenly, requiring emergency surgery to remove her right ovary. This operation was followed by four cycles of chemotherapy, causing her to miss almost half the school year. Fortunately, the treatments were successful and Carleigh has been cancer-free for almost two years. Looking back at the experience, her mom said, “throughout the surgery and treatments Carleigh didn’t cry or complain, but I could tell that her personality had changed. But she stayed strong.”
When Carleigh learned that she qualified for a wish, it didn’t take her long to realize that she would like to go to the Olympic Trials, something she had done several years ago. According to her mom, “Carleigh was shy at her first meeting with Make-A-Wish volunteers, but she knew what she wanted. She’s always had a passion for gymnastics. When Carleigh told them her wish she didn’t think it was going to happen. Once she learned her wish would be granted, she couldn’t believe it.”
“Breathtaking” was the word Carleigh used to describe her experience at the 2016 Women’s Gymnastics Olympic Team Trials in San Jose, California. Watching Carleigh’s face light up at the event, her mom said, “I haven’t seen her this happy in a year and a half.” Carleigh had attended the Women’s Gymnastic Olympic Team Trials in 2012. This time, as a Wish Kid, she was seated directly behind the balance beam, in the middle of the action. She and her family felt like a part of the experience rather than just spectators.
Carleigh’s favorite part of the Olympic Team Trials was seeing some of her favorite athletes step up to the stage as the chosen team was announced. She said, “it was awesome knowing that all the work they put into training and their careers during the past four years paid off. Everyone’s wish was coming true!”
From Carleigh’s mother’s perspective, one of the greatest moments was “just having the family together and having fun - no worries, a good break, having some laughs and seeing the athletes.”
Reflecting on her overall wish experience, Carleigh said, “The Make-A-Wish volunteers are doing good work on behalf of kids like me. Make-A-Wish gives kids a way to experience something fun and feel like a normal kid again. I hope that every kid who gets the opportunity enjoys it fully.”