Olivia, age 17, recently attended Make-A-Wish Greater Los Angeles’ Wish Discovery Day in Sherman Oaks, CA. A lifelong animal lover, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor but was in stable health when attending our event. Our volunteers discovered that she not only adores monkeys, Olivia specifically hoped to see them in their natural habitat. A talented artist and nature lover, Olivia knew exactly what her one true wish is – to visit the Sacred Monkey Forest in Bali, Indonesia. She described in great detail her dream to see the monkey forest in Ubud, Bali and to experience the exhilarating swing at the Zen Hideaway– a local tourist attraction.
Our team quickly went to work making travel arrangements for Olivia and making sure to schedule her trip between her numerous MRI scans. They also planned a comfortable stay where she would have access to vegan restaurants in line with her dietary needs. Once all the travel arrangements had been made, the team was so excited to surprise Olivia with the news that her wish was going to come true. They decided to make Olivia’s wish reveal extra special by transforming the entire LA office into a Balinese island paradise and taking her through an “Amazing Race” style obstacle course to reveal her wish! Our team had to ensure Olivia’s parents would keep our fun secret until wish reveal day – two weeks before her flight to Bali!
Planning began months in advance and entailed enlisting the support of corporate partners, small business owners and community members willing to lend a hand to support our Olivia. The entire experience brought out the best in all of us and showed the impact one child and one wish can make on our entire community here in LA.
Olivia’s parents brought her to the office under the guise of having to sign travel paperwork and a promise to visit her favorite ramen place down the block. Little did Olivia know what was in store for her behind our nondescript front doors. Upon entering, Olivia was met with our “Amazing Wish” host, Destini, who led her into her first challenge – a jungle maze through our back hallway that Olivia had to navigate without touching any of the vines. She was then led through a variety of rooms which were decorated as an ocean paradise, Zen garden, monkey forest and rice field respectively. In each room, she had to solve a variety of puzzles in order to advance to the next room. Throughout the event, Olivia had to draw the Hindu elephant god, Ganesh, make a flower mandala, find a hidden key, wear a monkey suit, feed her parents bananas while hopping on one foot and solve a puzzle written in Balinese. Although she had a huge smile on her face the whole time, she seemed happiest when cradling our scaliest guest, a pet lizard on loan from a friend of our chapter.
Our team was elated that Olivia was so incredibly happy to get her wish and to be able to share in her joy. We couldn’t have made this reveal happen without the support of many community partners and supporters. Halo Top Creamery provided much needed funding for her wish experience. A local prop house donated drapes and jungle-themed items to transform the office. An amazing baking blogger arrived with delicious vegan dessert sushi specifically made with Olivia in mind. A local production crew helped to film and photograph Olivia’s reactions. And we even had monkey suits donated courtesy of some generous and fun supporters. The energy and passion for our mission were palpable and infectious. We were even able to share in the festivities with supporters throughout Greater LA by live-streaming the event through our Instagram and Facebook accounts. Even our board members got in on the action by sharing with their networks and commenting on our social walls as Olivia made her way through the obstacles.
Making Olivia’s wish come true brought our whole community together. The icing on the cake was a thank you note that Olivia’s Mom sent us. “We are all still in great awe of your fabulous team and of the amazing day we spent with you! Olivia has said, several times, that Bali is the bonus, because reveal day was so incredible! The day was more than any of us ever expected or could have possibly imagined! We will keep you posted with pictures and updates from our travels and continue to share news of the wonderful work Make-A-Wish does to everyone we meet along the way!”