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Markella’s Make-A-Wish story

Published: Apr. 28, 2022 at 1:14 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska and Washington branch of the Make-A-Wish Foundation are making a final push to reach one million donated airline miles as a part of the Wishes in Flight campaign to help children with severe illnesses travel to their wishes.

In 2017, Markella Spiropoulos from Palmer had her wish granted by the Make-A-Wish foundation, traveling to Hawaii to witness the rainbow eucalyptus trees in person. Markella was just a 6-year-old when her wish was granted, but she and her family say that her experience carries as much meaning today as it did nearly five years ago.

“I remember most of the trip. I remember the main day and seeing the tree and they got me a really nice dress that I could wear and it was just a really nice day, but I remember it making me feel really nice and just special,” said Markella.

The now 10-year-old Markella has what’s called channelopathy, a disorder that primarily manifests in muscle problems.

“For her, the biggest sort of life threatening piece was that her diaphragm often, it’s a muscle — doesn’t work,” Markella’s mother Carmen Spiropoulos said. “And then she wouldn’t be able to breathe or she would get pneumonia a lot or just get really sick.”

At the time Markella was granted a wish, her mom wasn’t very familiar with the organization. In fact, she was under the impression it was only for terminally ill kids.

“I looked into it more and learned that it’s really about children with chronic life threatening illnesses, but not necessarily. A large number, if not the vast majority of Make-A-Wish children go on to lead long lives and so that was really helpful,” Carmen Spiropoulos said.

It was in the moments leading up to — and during Markella’s trip to Hawaii — that Carmen realized the impact Make-A-Wish has.

“Just to see so many people to volunteer their time, and to see this little unique person and all these different talents, just the ideas you couldn’t possibly come up with all the beautiful ideas they did,” Carmen Spiropoulos said. “It’s simple, like I said, and just this whole community, hundreds and hundreds of people just excited to come together to do something wonderful for a group of kids, but it’s not just the kids, it’s their families too.”

Campaigns like Wishes in Flight where people can donate airline miles is what allowed Markella’s family to share in that special moment, a trip that not only boosted Markella’s health and confidence, but was a reminder that she’s not alone.

“Everybody in Make-A-Wish understood it, so that felt really nice because. Being a younger kid, nobody understood, so that was nice,” Markella said.

Those interested in helping to grant wishes for children in Alaska can donate airline miles to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. They can also donate cash to help grant wishes. There are currently more than 60 kids in Alaska are waiting to receive a wish.

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