The wish coin that grew into a treehouse
The lives of Penelope and her family were turned upside down a week before her first birthday when a tumour was discovered. But thanks to generous supporters like you, a Frozen-themed cubby house lifted their spirits. This is Penelope’s story.
Frozen character Elsa gave wish child Penelope a head start in finding out she had a tumour.
A week before her first birthday in November 2015, wish parents Bronya and Levi took Penelope to get an x-ray as they suspected she had swallowed the head of a small Elsa figurine.
While the x-ray didn’t show signs of Penelope’s much-loved Elsa, it did show a tumour behind her chest.
“We were all in shock. I went in there for a doll’s head and found out she had that big tumour,” Bronya said.
“You know when things are just meant to happen? We were just meant for her to potentially eat that doll’s head. And we never ever found the doll’s head.”
Cubby house considerations
Bronya said Penelope was diagnosed with neuroblastoma and her tumour considered malignant (or aggressive).
Chemotherapy has been planned more than once in the past four years but ultimately specialists decided to leave the tumour alone.
“They are monitoring it,” Broyna said.
“It grows and it grows and it’s still malignant but they can’t remove it because it’s wrapped around too many main arteries and bits and pieces inside.
“It’s not really impacting her as such. It’s more the trauma of going into the hospital for check-ups, that’s really starting to give her anxiety.”
Through wishes, Make-A-Wish gives kids a distraction from their medical journey, allowing them to feel positive about the future and focused on something they love.
So it was no surprise when Penelope’s oncologist encouraged Bronya to apply to Make-A-Wish that Penelope wished for a Frozen-themed cubby house.
“She was very particular and said she wants a gold door and a blue house,” Bronya said. “She just loves Frozen and Elsa and she is forever dancing around the house pretending to spray me with ice.”
The coin that became a treehouse
How do you know when a wish child is happy with her wish? Bronya was in no doubt about what Penelope, 5, thought of her cubby house.
“I think she just started screaming,” Broyna said. “As soon as she saw it approaching our house she started running down the driveway.
“When everyone left and it was just us, she didn’t want to get out of it. She told me she wanted to sleep in there.”
The night before the arrival of the cubby – or “treehouse” as Penelope calls it – Penelope buried her wish coin. The wish coin is given to children in the lead-up to a wish to help build their anticipation.
“I said to her ‘what are you doing’ and she said ‘I am putting it in the ground for my treehouse’,” Bronya said.
“She dug it in and in the morning the coin had grown into her wish.”
Make-A-Wish volunteer Michelle Rose was with Penelope every step of her Wish Journey.
The diligent volunteers put the Frozen song ‘Let It Go’ on the stereo when Penelope first came out to see if her wish coin had sprouted her cubby.
“Her look of utter joy and squeal of excitement was just the most gorgeous moment,” Michelle said.
'Above and beyond'
Bronya said Penelope’s cubby house had “100% met expectations”.
“She loves the oven and she has been serving us roast dinners, it’s really cute,” she said.
“She was over the moon. I’d say beyond happy. She loved it, she absolutely loved it.”
Bronya said the efforts of Make-A-Wish volunteers had warmed the family’s hearts.
“It was beautiful from start to finish. The volunteers who looked after us were absolutely amazing. One of them even brought Elsa cupcakes with her. They went above and beyond. It was so good," Bronya said.
“Even volunteer Michelle’s father Greg made this gold Elsa crown that went on top of the door – he didn’t have to do it but that’s what you guys do. It was really nice.”
I can’t thank you guys enough. It was beyond anything I imagined. I thought she was just going to get this little plastic cubby thing but it was just exactly what she wanted even down to the snowflakes on the walls.Bronya Penelope's mum
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.
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