Kayla was healthy for most of her life. The bubbly girl spent her days playing with her friends and siblings - a happy and carefree life, the kind all kids deserve. Then, in December of 2012, her bladder began shutting down and when she was admitted to the hospital, doctors were unsure why.
It took more than a year filled with tests and scans for Kayla to get a diagnosis. She learned that she had Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) – a condition affecting the production of collagen, which is important for tissue formation and structure within the body. Even with her diagnosis, more months passed and very little was working to curb her constant pain. This is when her family found out about Starlight Children’s Foundation Canada.
Thanks to the Starlight Great Escapes Wishes program, after nearly a year of living with her diagnosis, Kayla and her family were able to enjoy some time away from the hospital on a weekend getaway. After enduring two years of tests, scans, and limited success with treatments, they were all in need of a break to relax and make new friends, and 72 hours escaping to Great Wolf Lodge was the perfect reprieve for the family.
Unfortunately, soon after, only a few months into the new year, Kayla was readmitted to the hospital and diagnosed with a 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.
Her enthusiasm inspires her younger sister, Courtney. The two are best friends and she’s supported Kayla since she was first diagnosed. Courtney has been a huge supporter at home with her younger siblings, all while maintaining excellent grades and playing on her Rep Soccer Team. The two spend a lot of their time planning fundraisers together and Courtney wouldn’t have it any other way because she finds it fun. As someone so close to Kayla, she is thankful for Starlight 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 was born with Spina Bifida and has had many medical procedures and surgeries since birth. Her family first learned about Starlight Canada when Emily was 11, and a year later, she was granted her Once In A Lifetime Wish: to visit Disneyworld in Florida. The trip was undoubtedly exciting, but the excitement started the moment the wish was granted. “A Starlight representative arrived at our home with a very large box,” says Emily’s mom, Janice. Inside, not only was her wish but a huge pile of gifts and toys, not only for Emily but for her sister too. Her parents say that the family has never felt more blessed.
“And this caring and giving attitude from Starlight has never stopped,” share Emily’s parents. Since that trip to Disneyworld, the whole family has taken part in many Starlight Great Escapes Wish events, everything from going to the movies and meeting TV stars to boat cruises around the Toronto Harbour, which was Emily’s favourite (a night out with the parents!).
Starlight Canada 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 or disability. “This is a priceless gift,” says Emily’s parents, who are proud of their beautiful daughter, who has now graduated from Durham College where she studied to be a child and youth worker.
Along the way, Stefanie, Emily’s older sister, has been there as Emily’s rock. She continues to be one of Team Wishes’ loudest supporters, works hard fundraising, and is just as proud of her little sister as her parents are.
Daniella is an adorable, energetic, fun-loving girl who will melt your heart with her smile. She loves dancing, acting, swimming, horseback riding, art, and movies; all the typical things that many young girls her age enjoy. While Daniella lives with Spastic Diplegia Cerebral Palsy, she doesn’t let her condition impact how she enjoys all these things. She’s still growing up and yet Daniella is required to plan her life around her appointments for physical therapy, occupational therapy, Botox injections, and has had to undergo major surgeries. These are things no one should have to contend with, especially not a young woman like Daniella.
Despite all of this, Daniella consistently aims high in life and is an inspiration to those who know her.
Daniella has attended countless Starlight Canada events with her family. In August of 2013, Daniella had her Once In A Lifetime Wish granted through Starlight Canada to “Climb a Mountain” in Banff, Alberta – and she made it all that way to the top of Sulphur Mountain with family and it was an experience the close-knit family will never forget.
Daniella’s younger brother, Dylan, was there for that climb up the mountain, has been by his sister’s side through it all – and wants to do more. Determined to help raise funds, he’s become a Team Wishes philanthropist and raised $1,000 through a basket raffle at his school. We can’t wait to see what he does this year!