|Braelon Vannoster & Angelica Wilson • Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller / Grove Sun|
Wishes came true this fall for two Grove girls, as they both received trips to Disney World through the Make A Wish Foundation.
For both Angelica Wilson, a fifth grader, and Braelon Vannoster, a sixth grader, the trips to Florida in September and October came after medical personnel connected to their care nominated them for the experience.
The Make A Wish Foundation in Oklahoma awards between 150 to 180 trips to children, with life threatening illnesses, each year.
Kiyana Baird, the state's wish coordinator, said volunteers are on tap to end the year with 180 wishes.
Baird said children can choose a wish from multiple options. They can go on trips, become someone for a day, request an item, ask to meet someone, or even request to give something away.
Wilson and Vannoster both picked traveling to Disney World as their primary wish. During the trips, they each stayed at the Give Kids the World resort, an all-encompassing resort and mini-amusement park and received tickets to a variety of attractions.
Wilson nicknamed the resort "Villa Villekulla" because it reminded her of the fictional home of Pippi Longstocking. At the resort, students were given ice cream for breakfast, presents each day, and as both Wilson and Vannoster described - spoiled.
Baird said a trip to Disney World is one of the most requested wish for children, because it means they can take family members.
"It's a great place to go for the whole family," Baird said. "Children can take their immediate family. Others can go if they pay their own way. It gives children a family vacation."
The average wish costs approximately $7,500. In the event of a trip, like Wilson and Vannoster picked, it includes all travel expenses, tickets to activities, and even spending money for souvenirs.
"Wishes give hope and joy at a time they are both needed most," Baird said. "it gives [students] something to look forward to, and be excited about. We've heard stories that it's given some children the extra push they needed to finish [treatment].
"Wishes are powerful."
Wilson, a student at Cowboy Junction in Vinita, traveled with her mother and father, Carey and John Wilson, and her grandmother, Martha Peck of Pryor.
Vannoster, a student at Grove Upper Elementary School, traveled with her mother, Keslie Leonard, her father, Jeff Vannoster, and her sister, Byntlee Dawn Vannoster - also a student at Grove Upper Elementary.
About the trip
Wilson's trip included stops at the Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot, SeaWorld, Universal Studios and Island of Adventures.
Her trip to Universal also included a stop at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - something she found quite, amazing because it included a stop at Ollivanders Shop where she was given a chance to "let a wand choose her."
She also had a chance to have visits with Mickey Mouse, Pluto and a variety of other Disney characters.
"It was a carefree week," Carey Wilson said of the trip. "We didn't worry about our next doctor's appointment, or her health prognosis.
"We did whatever she wanted to do. She got to pick and choose. The trip was flawless."
Carey Wilson joked that Wilson's choices meant that the family walked a combined 45 miles as they traversed the various amusement parks.
The Vannosters trip included stops at Disney, as well as SeaWorld, Universal Studios and more.
"She was a princess for a week," said her father, Jeff Vannoster. "They spoiled her. This trip was priceless. You can't spend enough money to get the same experience."
Vannoster said she had the most fun, spending time meeting the various princesses; admitting she filled her autograph book with their signatures and pictures.
Her favorite princesses to meet - Elsa and Anna from the movie Frozen.
Jeff Vannoster said the best part about the trip, was watching his two daughters interact without worrying about health issues.
"We just wanted Braelon to have a good time," Jeff Vannoster said. "Just seeing [the enjoyment on] her face, was the best part."
More about Wilson
Wilson has pilocytic astrocytoma, a brain tumor that occurs in children or young adults, that is typically slow growing and benign.
Since 2013, she has undergone two surgeries to remove a non-malignant brain tumor. In July of this year, doctors at Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas determined the remnants of the tumor remain, and continue to grow..
Working with her physicians, Wilson's parents have tentatively scheduled her to undergo a third surgery in May, pending the results of a MRI and further tests set for Dec. 17 in Texas. The hope is she can recover from the surgery without missing school.
Earlier this month, Wilson had a mass removed from her arm. Doctors determined on Thursday it was a benign spindle cell tumor and she will not need to undergo additional treatment.
More about Vannoster
Vannoster was born with CHARGE syndrome, a birth defect that impacts a child's vision - the retina or iris does not fuse normally; causes heart defects, retards growth, causes renal effects, as well as hearing loss and a variety of other things.
Since birth, Vannoster has undergone 28 major surgeries, five of which were open heart procedures. Her last surgery took place in August 2013, when she received an artificial valve and pacemaker.
Jeff Vannoster said he's confident his daughter, who has already exceeded expectations, will have "endless possibilities."
"She gets As and Bs, and has been active in the Special Olympics since she was four," Jeff Vannoster said. "Her size is an issue, but she's growing.
"I don't know what the future holds for her, but I know she touches a lot of people wherever she goes. Hopefully it will be something good."
For the third year in a row, members of Angelica Wilson's church, Foundation Free Will Baptist, will celebrate Christmas by passing out "stuffies" to children throughout Grove and northeast Oklahoma.
On Saturday, volunteers - known as Angelica's Angels - plan to hand out the stuffed animals during the 2015 Grove Lighted Christmas Parade.
The event, set for 6 p.m., rain or shine, will take place on Saturday, Dec. 12, in downtown Grove.
Angelica's Angels will walk alongside the Foundation Free Will Baptist float and pass out this year's stuffies, which have been donated through the efforts of Mark Gibson, manager of the Lifeway Christian Store in Hurst, Texas.
Others will be given out during the church's Living Nativity presentation, set for 5 to 8 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 13, at the church.
The program begin in 2013, as a way for Wilson to give back to the community.
"It's good for her to be giving back," her mother, Carey Wilson said at the start of the program. "She's gotten so much because she needed it. But she needs to give back, to see that (life) is not all about getting things."
This originally appeared in the Dec. 11, 2015 issue of The Grove Sun