Kayla & Courtney
Kayla is a strong 22-year-old girl who was healthy for most of her life. When she was first admitted to the hospital in December of 2012, her bladder had begun shutting down and doctors were unsure why.
After over a year of tests and scans, Kayla was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS); a condition affecting the production of collagen, which is important for tissue formation and structure within the body. Months passed and not much was working to curb her constant pain. That is when her family found out about Starlight!!
After almost a year of living with her diagnosis, Kayla and her family were able to enjoy a much needed weekend away at Great Wolf Lodge through the Starlight Great Escapes Wishes program, where they could enjoy some time away from the hospital, relax and also meet some new friends!
With only a few months into the New Year, Kayla was re-admitted to the hospital and now diagnosed with a new condition called Superior Mesenteric Artery (SMA) Syndrome; a rare digestive disorder only affecting about 500 people.
While these medical conditions have catastrophically interrupted her life and have resulted in dozens of extended in-patient hospitalizations, Kayla enforces strict rules that “only positive and happy people” are welcome to visit her when she is unwell. Her positivity and enthusiasm about living her life despite her illness, is absolutely contagious.
Courtney, Kayla's younger sister, is 21-years-old and has supported Kayla since she was first diagnosed. She has been a huge supporter at home with her younger siblings, all while maintaining excellent grades and playing on her Rep Soccer Team. Courtney loves running fundraisers with Kayla, because the time they spend together planning is a lot of fun. Kayla is her best friend, and she is thankful for Starlight Children's Foundation Canada for being so supportive and always being there to make her family's days brighter.
Their determination to give back to others who are a part of the Starlight family is truly inspirational!
Emily & Stefanie
Emily was born with Spina Bifida and has had many medical procedures and surgeries since birth. We were first introduced to Starlight when Emily was 11, and she was granted her Once In A Lifetime Wish when she was 12. Wow, what an experience! Emily chose Disney World in Florida as her wish, but the fun and excitement started long before we arrived in Florida. When her wish was ready, a Starlight representative arrived at our home with a VERY large box. In that box was Emily’s wish along with a large assortment of gifts and toys, not only for her but her sister as well. We have never felt so blessed. This caring and giving attitude from Starlight has never stopped.
Since our wish, Emily and our entire family have participated in many Starlight Great Escapes Wish events, from going to the movies to meeting TV stars to teen boat cruises around the Toronto harbour (I think that was Emily’s favourite, a night out without the parents).
Starlight gives children an opportunity to be just kids, an opportunity to put the medical stuff aside, even if just for a few hours, and spend some fun time with their family or other Starlight children. It shows the children they are not alone with their illness and/or disability. This is a priceless gift for which we will be eternally grateful!!
Emily is now a beautiful young adult who has recently graduated from Durham College where she studied to be a child and youth worker.
We couldn’t talk about Emily without mentioning her sister, and her rock, Stefanie. Stefanie has been one of Team Wishes’ loudest supporters from the start, and could not be more proud of her sister and all she has accomplished. Much more than just a support system, Stefanie is now also hard at work fundraising herself!
Marie is the newest member of Team Wishes, and the first official Starlight parent to be part of the team. Marie’s son, Tristan, became a Starlight Angel in 2018 after tragically losing his hard-fought battle with brain cancer.
Starlight, with the help of their sponsors at Toys“R”Us Canada and Nintendo, granted his final wish to play an unreleased and unfinished version of Pokémon’s Let’s Go Pikachu & Evee, as Marie and her family knew he likely would not make it to the release day.
Having fought for him every step of the way, Marie and her family continue to honour Tristan’s memory while ensuring more children can have their Once In A Lifetime Wish granted; to choose hope over fear, just as Tristan did.
This year, all of the money raised by Team Wishes will be in honour of Tristan the Brave.
Team Wishes Alumna
Although these girls may no longer be a part of Team Wishes at this time, their legacy will live on and we will continue to be inspired by them every day. Starlight and Team Wishes will forever be grateful for all of their efforts and generosity.
Once a member of Team Wishes, always a member of Team Wishes. We hope to see you at one of the many fundraisers we have planned!
Alexandra is a fun-loving, horseback riding, cupcake baking, dancing queen! She is also a 15-year-old Cancer Warrior.
In February 2013, Alexandra was rushed to the hospital to remove an extremely rare, high risk, stage 3 undifferentiated kidney sarcoma. The tumour, caused by a genetic mutation that also gave her lung cancer at 11-months-old, left her without a left kidney. While on treatment, Alexandra found a safe haven in the Starlight Lounge at SickKids. The lounge was her daily escape, a place where she could feel normal and could craft, laugh and make new friends. We are grateful to Starlight for providing such a wonderful space and for the fact that there were dedicated times for oncology patients to use the room safely.
After 12 of the 26 prescribed cycles of treatment and 12 doses of radiation, Alexandra was forced to discontinue treatment because her body was no longer able to tolerate the chemo. Her blood was struggling to recuperate between chemo sessions, resulting in multiple, frequent transfusions, and a decline in her remaining kidney and liver functions.
Today, Alexandra continues regular monitoring at SickKids, but she is determined to live life on her terms and not worry about whatever may come next. She joined her best friend, Kayla Johnston, and Team Wishes in fundraising for another child's Once In A Lifetime Wish because she feels it's important to give back, especially when she has been blessed with so much.
Daniella & Dylan
Daniella is an adorable, energetic, fun-loving 15-year-old girl who will melt your heart with her smile. She loves dancing, acting, swimming, horseback riding, art and movies; all of the typical things that many young girls her age might enjoy. While Daniella lives with Spastic Diplegia Cerebral Palsy, she doesn’t let her condition impact how she enjoys all of these things. At just 15-years-old, Daniella is required to plan her life around her appointments for physical therapy, occupational therapy, Botox injections, and has had to undergo major surgeries.
Despite all of this, Daniella consistently aims high in life and naturally is an inspiration, so much so that she was recently named a Barbie Role Model for the latest Barbie Fashionistas + Wheelchair doll! As one of Barbie’s newest Role Models, Daniella has joined an influential group of 60 Canadian women and girl Role Models who are being recognized for their strength, positivity and ambition. To find out more, click here.
Daniella has attended countless Starlight events with her family. In August of 2013, Daniella had her Once In A Lifetime Wish granted through Starlight to “Climb a Mountain” in Banff, Alberta – and she made it all that way to the top of Sulphur Mountain with her brother Dylan and her parents. It was a time they will never forget.
Daniella’s brother, Dylan, was there for that climb up the mountain, and has been there by his sister’s side through it all. This inspiring 12-year-old wants to do more. Determined to help raise funds, Dylan has become a Team Wishes philanthropist, and recently raised $1000 through a basket raffle at his school!
Stephanie spent a large part of her childhood in scrubs between the four walls of a hospital. Born with omphalocele, a condition where the organs grow outside of your body, it’s the severe chronic pain that’s been ruling her life since day one. Stephanie was initially introduced to Starlight when she received an Admit Kit during her stay at the Hospital for Sick Children. The Starlight Site and Fun Centers in the hospital helped her leave her sickness behind in her bed and just be a kid.
Out of the hospital, our family had the chance to take part in many Starlight Day Brightener Wishes, including boat rides, a Selena Gomez Concert and Stephanie’s all-time favourite – a trip to Great Wolf Lodge! It was a much needed break that came at the heels of an intense five weeks of hospitalization at a pediatric pain program.
Although her condition makes daily life tougher, Stephanie doesn’t let that stop her from doing what she loves, including horseback riding, skiing, snowboarding and dirt biking. As a budding philanthropist and public speaker, (her most recent speech was at Starlight’s 22nd Annual Gala) Stephanie joined Team Wishes to help raise money and awareness for Starlight, and to give other kids the opportunities she’s been so fortunate to have.