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Believe it, wish granted: Program sends girl, family to Disney World

Updated: 
November 8, 2017 - 12:05am

KAILUA-KONA — Sofia Grace’s friends and family think the world of her.

“For me, it’s so humbling to be around her,” said Ernest Abrojina, “because she’s so special.”

Keala Kadooka called the 3-year-old “a miracle,” and the girl’s mother, Nell Grace, called her daughter “a fighter.”

“She fights off everything,” said Grace. “She doesn’t give up, so that gives me the will to fight for her.”

And as friends and family gathered around at KBXtreme Family Entertainment Center on Friday, a pair of wish granters from Make-A-Wish Hawaii announced that Sofia’s wish for a tea party with Disney princesses would come true, causing the girl’s eyes to light up with joy.

Sofia has a rare chromosome deletion, her mother said, one of just a few cases in the world.

“So they don’t have very much data on it,” she said. “So basically, she’s a living testimony to see what’s going to happen next. Because they really don’t have information on the chromosome deletion.”

A couple months ago, representatives from Make-A-Wish told Grace that Sofia had been nominated to be a Wish Child, news Grace thought was amazing.

“This was a total shock to me,” she said.

Make-A-Wish Hawaii grants more than 90 local wishes a year, said Lauren Haavik, community engagement specialist with the organization. Since 1982, the chapter has granted wishes to more than 13,000 children and their families.

Before friends and family headed to the celebration at KBXtreme to hear the Make-A-Wish announcement, Sofia kicked off Macy’s “Believe” Campaign at the store’s Kailua-Kona location.

The campaign invites children to write letters to Santa and drop them in a mailbox at the store.

For every “Dear Santa” letter, Macy’s will donate $1 — up to $1 million — to support the mission of Make-A-Wish.

Sofia kicked off the campaign by dropping her own letter into the mailbox.

Grace said she’s determined to keep a positive perspective.

“And I just said, you know, God has given me this time with her, and he’s really the only reason why she’s alive,” she said. “And it’s a total miracle that she is alive and we just give him all the glory for it, because the doctors are just so amazed at her progress.”

The wish granters from the foundation said at the celebration that when they visited with the family to help figure out the girl’s wish, they knew the answer right away.

“We knew right when we met her,” said Melissa Roberts, a volunteer with the foundation. “It was princesses.”

At just the mention of Disney, she said, the girl’s eyes lit up.

“And we asked her, ‘Do you want to meet a Disney princess?’” she said, “and she was bouncing up and down!”

Roberts, the mother of a Wish Child herself, knows firsthand the difference the foundation can make for children whose wishes are granted.

“It changes everything about it,” she said. “It gives the kids not just joy, but hope. You know, it takes them away from all the doctors for a few minutes and it completely changes their lives.”

Ashley Bell, another volunteer, added that it also helps get the families away from the everyday appointments, something Grace said was also important for families.

“It’s just kind of a refresher to start over again,” Grace said, “to not think you have to be in the hospital and watching your child get poked and probed. It’s nice to know that your child will be able to smile and have fun and not even think of the hospitals and the doctors’ appointments and just all of those things.”

And for the girl’s mother, her friends and family had high praise for her, too.

“I know some people, they’re just down and out, but Nell, she’s got a lot of energy,” said Abrojina. “She believes in God; she’s got all the help that she needs from her family.”

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