Meet the new ninja warrior, Juniper!
There’s a new ninja warrior in Brisbane! Thanks to the generosity of donors like you, pint-sized Juniper got a brand new backyard for her wish.
A ninja in the making
She may not look like a ninja, but 5-year-old Juniper displays all the determination and courage of one.
Long before she fell in love with the likes of Australian Ninja Warrior and the similar show on American TV, Juniper was a happy baby who in the words of mum Carissa “one day just started walking funny”.
“We thought she might have broken or sprained her leg, so we took her in for an x-ray,” Carissa said.
“They couldn’t get any bloods from her because she was only one and a half and so little, but they just said the x-ray looks fine, don’t worry about it.”
When Juniper’s limp didn’t go away in a couple of days, they took her to the GP, then the emergency department and blood was taken from her little arm.
“My husband Travis was there, and he called and said she’s probably fine, they are just waiting for the bloods to come back,” Carissa said.
“Then 20 minutes later, he called back and said she had leukaemia.
“We have these really close neighbours right next door, and they just heard me scream.”
A community mobilised
The day after the diagnosis Juniper started chemotherapy, but Travis and Carissa were still trying to come to terms with the diagnosis.
“I kept thinking ‘they have got it wrong’ and they kept saying ‘we don’t get it wrong we are 100% sure’ but I said ‘look at her she doesn’t have cancer’,” Carissa said.
While doctors embarked on a treatment plan for Juniper that included over two years of chemotherapy, something unexpected was going on back at Travis and Carissa’s home.
“The whole community just mobilised,” Carissa said. “People would show up at 5pm every night with a meal and also lunch, treats and green smoothies for the hospital.
“I didn’t cook a meal for at least a year. There was a laundry service and a weekly cleaning service.
“People we didn’t even know were coming out of the woodwork, people we would never have expected.”
The Ninja Warrior
On the last day of 2018, Juni’s chemo ended.
“2019 was the best year, Juniper started kinder and was the first time she could go with kids her age without really having to worry about getting sick from them,” Carissa said.
One of the few highlights during Juniper’s recovery was deciding on her wish. Only 10 minutes before Make-A-Wish volunteers arrived to ask her about her wish did Juniper settle on one.
“She raced into her room and changed and came out in a Wonder Woman Ninja Warrior costume and said ‘I know what I wish for, I want a Ninja Warrior course in my backyard’,” Carissa said.
The funnest backyard in Brisbane
Thanks to wonderful donors and supporters like you, Juniper’s backyard was transformed.
Monkey bars, a flying fox, rings, a slackline, stepping stones, trampoline and warped wall are part of Juniper’s backyard Ninja Warrior obstacle course.
“We have the funnest backyard in Brisbane right now,” Carissa said.
Carissa said losing two years battling leukaemia meant most children lost the fitness other children their age have. The obstacle course has been the perfect way for Juniper to regain that fitness.
A lasting impact
“It’s such a great thing that’s not just a ‘one-time, forget-about-it thing’. Juni is so young that if it was a one-off wish, she might not remember it,” Carissa said.
“She’s not going to forget this because it’s going to be here for a while.”
Complementing the obstacle course is a mural done by a friend of Juniper’s family visiting from the United States.
The artist friend asked Juniper what the mural on the backyard shed should look like and she replied: “I want a strong little girl with big muscles”.
“And the mural is of this little girl exactly Juni’s height with big muscles and in a little outfit that Juni wore when she made the wish,” Carissa said.
Unfortunately, the mural was damaged by rain shortly after it was completed with Carissa fearing it was ruined.
“There were bubbles on it, and it literally looked like Juni was dying, but we cleaned it up after the rain stopped and it went back to normal,” she said.
“You can’t tell anything happened, and we said ‘that’s so Juni, she’s such a resilient thing and she always bounces back’.”
It’s such a great thing that’s not just a ‘one-time, forget-about-it thing’. She’s not going to forget this because it’s going to be here for a while.Carissa mum of Juni, 5, leukaemia
The Wish Journey
How a wish comes to life
Make-A-Wish volunteers visit each child to capture their greatest wish, getting to the heart of what kids truly want and why. This profound insight is part of what makes Make-A-Wish unique, giving children full creative control and helping to shape their entire Wish Journey.
Back at Make-A-Wish HQ, we partner with families, volunteers and medical teams to design the ultimate wish experience - and start rallying our partners and supporters to help make it happen.
In the lead up to the wish, we take each child on a journey designed to build excitement and provide a welcome distraction from medical treatment. Anticipation can be incredibly powerful, helping to calm, distract and inspire sick kids at a time they need it most.
When the moment finally arrives, children get to experience their greatest wish come true - it's everything they've imagined and more. Pinch yourself, and don't forget to take a breath and enjoy every precious moment!
Wish impact studies show that a child's wish lives on, long after the moment. A wish gives more than just hope – with an incredible and lasting effect on the lives of sick kids, their families and wider communities.