The Impact of Roxy's Wish

Whenever it rains, look for rainbows! We explore how Roxy's rainbow umbrella wish impacted all those involved in the Wish Journey - what role they played and how it's brought more colour to their lives.

Roxy has rare genetic disorder, but absolutely loves colour and nature. So, for her wish, she flew from Tasmania up to the Sunshine Coast to visit the gorgeous Rainbrella Project at the iconic Ginger Factory.

Watch as Roxy's wish comes true and read more about her Wish Force community below.

Roxy's Wish Force

Did you know it takes a community to create a rainbow? Read more about the people involved with Roxy's wish below

Happy wish child with her mum


Roxy's Mum

Happy artist stands in front of rainbow umbrellas

Sophy Blake

Roxy's Artist

Smiling woman holds photo of wish child


Roxy's Volunteer

Smiling woman holds colourful inflatable flowers


Man with guitar stands in front of rainbow umbrellas


Smiling woman with Mickey ears and a wand


Roxy's Mum, Simone

Roxy's Mum, Simone

There’s a special moment, in a day full of special moments, which Wish mum Simone remembers.

Towards the start of daughter Roxy’s rainbow umbrella wish, Roxy and her family were immersed in the wonderland of the 1000 rainbow umbrellas that make up the Rainbrella Project in Queensland.

With their eyes mostly fixed upwards admiring the umbrellas, musician Paul Vercoe strummed his guitar and sang ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’.

“I just looked at Roxy, and she had this huge, wonderful smile,” Simone recalled, “then I looked at (Rainbrella artist) Sophy, and she was looking at Roxy, and it was too much. It was so emotional for it to all come together so perfectly.

“And Sophy just grabbed my hand; she just knew what to do. She really helped me, and she felt it, too. It was beautiful. There were some happy tears; it was really moving.”

Happy wish child with her mum

The little girl who loves rainbow umbrellas was diagnosed at nine-months-old with a brain malformation known as Miller-Dieker lissencephaly, leaving Roxy non-verbal and with cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

When the Wish Team from the Hobart Branch of Make-A-Wish first started engaging with Roxy, there was some thought her wish might have something to do with improving the family home.

“We were originally looking at ways to improve her home life,” Simone said. “Changes to the garden, putting things in the backyard for her, but it just wasn’t coming together.

“It did take a long time. There were lots of conversations with so many people from Make-A-Wish. There was never a conversation about money, what it would cost, or any sign of stress on their part."

“The whole team from Make-A-Wish made Roxy’s happiness the key factor in finding a wish. Finally, Roxy’s wish emerged after Simone saw photos on Facebook of the Rainbrella Project. When I mentioned to (lead volunteer) Romany we should do something like that, she just took it and ran,” Simone said.

“She said, ‘Let’s make that happen,’ and she did.”

A Special Place in our Hearts

Roxy’s wish day was in some jeopardy the night before when she fell ill. She had seizures, which typically would mean she would need a few days to recover.

“But for some reason, she was able just to put it all aside and have this magical day,” Simone said, she was just awake, alert, and smiling, and she didn’t want to be away from those umbrellas.

“She was so full of life. Her eye had a sparkle, and I could feel her happiness.”

While the Rainbrella Project was the highlight of Roxy’s wish, during the five nights spent on the Sunshine Coast, Make-A-Wish also organised trips for the 8-year-old to SeaLife and Australia Zoo.

“The wish will always hold a special place in our hearts,” Simone said, "so, to the businesses, the individuals and anybody who contributes to those moments, I don’t know how to make them understand how much of an impact they actually have at the end of the day, but it’s huge. It’s a core memory in my daughter’s life that my family will never forget.”

Wish child Roxy and her family reaching for rainbow umbrellas

"The wish week is now a core memory made, such a special time for our family. Daniel and I both agreed it was the best day of our life as a family of 5! I will happily keep telling everyone how wonderful Make-A-Wish are!”

Simone, Roxy's mum

Roxy's Artist, Sophy

The Artist Behind the Umbrellas

Artist Sophy Blake took some of the joy of Roxy’s wish 900km on her plane trip from the Sunshine Coast to Melbourne. And when she got home, she sprinkled that joy over her ill mother.

Sophy has been her elderly mum’s carer since she had a stroke, so as soon as Sophy put her luggage down, she told her mum about the wish.

“Mum was so excited I did Roxy’s wish,” Sophy said. “In fact, she’s a great knitter, so she said she would knit Roxy a rainbow wool jumper.

“So, she did, and we posted that down to Hobart and (Roxy’s mum) Simone sent a letter back saying how much she loved it. It was very good for my darling mum’s state of mind. The whole wish, in every single way, was just a blessing.”

Happy artist stands in front of rainbow umbrellas

Being creative was always part of Sophy’s DNA. Her father was a designer, and her mother was an artist. Sophy was a primary school teacher, a children’s book illustrator, a graphic designer, a mural painter, a ceramic artist, and a 3D artist. She has worked extensively with paper mâché and recycled materials in the last decade.

Sophy had done some workshops at The Ginger Factory and was approached during COVID to do something with their rainforest gardens.

The idea of hanging 1000 umbrellas was born, inspired by COVID lockdowns in an Italian city where kids painted rainbows on their windows as signs of hope to passersby.

“So, the Rainbrella Project was about hope,” Sophy said, “the message was that everything will be OK after COVID. And to remember to love each other.”

Roxy’s story was also about hope. Sophy was keen to play as big a role as she needed to on the wish day.

Sophy promised herself not to be emotional during the day. She and The Ginger Factory’s Dani Russell gave each other a “pep talk” to contain their (happy) tears as the day unfolded.

“When I first walked in there, before Roxy’s family arrived, Dani showed me the cake they had made for Roxy; something triggered me, and I just burst into tears,” Sophy said, "then I gathered myself and talked myself into being very calm.”

Upon Roxy’s arrival, Sophy immediately felt drawn to the big-smiling girl.

“When they first walked in (Roxy’s dad) Daniel was carrying her, and I said, ‘Just lay her back and let her look up,’ and when he did, her little face lit up: it was just the most precious moment ever,” Sophy said.

“Roxy is an absolute superstar, but the family are just the most incredible people. I admire their tenacity and their love and adoration for that beautiful girl. I spoke to Daniel at one stage, and he said, ‘She is just so magic, this child’, and you could see it.”

Sophy said Roxy’s wish – her first experience with Make-A-Wish – was so good she wanted to be involved in more wishes.

“The whole Make-A-Wish process is contagious,” Sophy said, “the ideas, the people that work there, the wishes themselves, it is gorgeous. It is just love in a nutshell.

“It is really incredible the mountains those people at Make-A-Wish climb. The things that they make happen. I am so thrilled I could be part of a wish."

Happy wish child and family stand with rainbow umbrellas

It’s very good for the soul. The memory is in my heart and my head, and that’s the most beautiful thing to carry with me.

Sophy, The Artist

Roxy's Volunteer, Romany

Roxy's Volunteer, Romany

Roxy’s wish excited kids in two households, some 20km apart.

The anticipation had been building in Roxy's house for her wish to visit the Rainbrella Project at Queensland’s Ginger Factory. Across town, the seven and 10-year-old children of Make-A-Wish volunteer Romany Brodribb were also on Roxy’s journey.

Romany was leading a wish for the first time, meaning she was the volunteer from the Hobart Branch who was keeping in regular contact with Roxy’s family.

“Our first meetings with Roxy were via Zoom due to illness and the threat of COVID at the time,” Romany said, "we discussed the things that 'light Roxy up' with the family.

“What first struck me about Roxy's parents, Daniel and Simone, was their calm demeanour and warmth. The family has been through - and continues to navigate around - challenges, but their love of each other, and for Roxy, is paramount. I remember how Roxy's face lit up, and she would smile from ear to ear when she saw her dad.”

Once Roxy’s wish was locked in to visit Rainbrella, Romany constantly told her children Florence and Edward about Roxy’s love of rainbow umbrellas.

“Every time we would go somewhere, and they would see something rainbow-related, they would say ‘Roxy would love that’, or they would see a rainbow in the sky and say ‘that one is for Roxy’,” Romany said.

Smiling woman holds photo of wish child

Romany and fellow volunteer Kaye Nugent first met Roxy’s family face-to-face at the wish reveal at a Hobart park.

The wish reveal is the occasion when a family learns the full details of the wish, including the itinerary. Romany and Kaye brought rainbow balloons, a rainbow flag, a rainbow painting activity and gifts for Roxy and her brother Ziggy. Florence and Edward helped Romany and Kaye with a book that was made for Roxy and blew up the rainbow balloons.

“Because Roxy is non-verbal, we wanted to give the best opportunity for Roxy to understand her wish and what was going to happen,” Romany said, “so we thought a visual way of doing that was to create a book, which we called Roxy’s Rainbow Adventure, and illustrate it with photos of her family and where she is going.

“Kaye sat down with Roxy and read it to her. Roxy was able to hear and see this story which featured her and we hoped it would be an impactful way to explain to Roxy what she had to look forward to."

“She took that book to school and shared that with her class to explain the wish.”

Romany's family and friends embraced Roxy’s wish.

“My family was brought along on the whole journey, so it was really special to share with them, and the story of Roxy’s wish so impacted my friends that they wanted to become more involved in Make-A-Wish,” Romany said, “one friend, off her own bat, went out and bought all of these beautiful rainbow-themed gifts and asked me to pass those onto Roxy.”

Romany said putting so much into Roxy’s wish had impacted her deeply.

“I walked away from the wish reveal in the park feeling joy-filled and kind of elated because we got to deliver some wonderful news to Roxy and her family that the wish is going to be granted,” she said, “I really wanted to make sure this wish would be something Roxy and her family would cherish. And I think it is cherished.”

Smiling wish child is under umbrella with family

Roxy's Wish Venue

Dani, The Ginger Factory

Roxy’s unforgettable day enjoying the Rainbrella Project at The Ginger Factory was six months in the making. Make-A-Wish first contacted The Ginger Factory Marketing Coordinator Dani Russell in February 2023. Wish Engagement Executive Sally Struzinski emailed the Sunshine Coast park asking if they would like to be involved in Roxy’s wish.

Ginger Factory Marketing Coordinator Dani Russell responded immediately.

“We didn’t know at the time what it entailed, but we said, ‘Of course we would love to!’ We absolutely wanted to be part of it,” Dani said. Phone calls, video calls, and emails between Make-A-Wish and Dani followed. Dani said it was a matter of “chipping away” on Roxy’s wish, learning a little more each week.

“We needed to know more about Roxy and her family, any limitations we needed to factor in and what special things the family might want as part of the day,” Dani said, "the Ginger Factory team and I got our heads together, and we had multiple meetings on how we can make Roxy’s wish extraordinary: how we can exceed their expectations and make it extraordinarily beautiful.”

Dani engaged a balloon artist and a guitar-playing singer for the wish day, Dani said the aim was “to have rainbow touch points everywhere”. From making ginger cookies with rainbow candy, to rainbow balloons, an extraordinary rainbow cake, a private tour with the The Ginger Factory's Gruffalo, live music and dancing for Roxy's family, as well as a boat and train ride - there was nothing they didn't think of.

They even had rainbow gelato for everyone who visited that day, named after Roxy!

Dani said they loved everything about Roxy's wish from the moment they heard about it. Everyone involved on the day still thinks of Roxy's reaction and her pure love of rainbows, and what a reminder it is to appreciate the simple beauty in the world.

Ginger bread mascot holds hands with smiling woman

The hard work and meticulous preparation paid off for Dani and The Ginger Factory team. As Roxy and her family fell in love with the 1000 umbrellas that make up the Rainbrella Project and enjoyed train and boat rides in the park, Dani’s team felt something “magical” was unfolding.

“Roxy’s smile was the most infectious smile. It’s a superpower,” Dani said, "her smile just made every single person smile in the park.

“Everybody was so inspired by Roxy and her family and their strength. It just put everything in perspective for everyone at the park. The wish impacted everyone. People that didn’t even know the story, new team members who didn’t know anything about it, everyone was impacted by it.”

Later that day, an emotional Dani went home, told her husband about Roxy’s wish, and took calls from family who wanted to know how it went.

“When I went home, I just sobbed. I cried so much. Just because of how amazing it was,” Dani said, “it’s a high that you can’t compare to anything else. We put so much love into the wish and were so physically and emotionally invested."

“It was such a momentous occasion for The Ginger Factory. Being a Wishmaker is one of the greatest honours I have had in my life.”

Smiling woman holds colourful inflatable flowers

Roxy's wish has impacted us in such a momentous way. It has really reminded us to stop and look around and really appreciate all the beauty in this world.

Dani, The Ginger Factory

Roxy's Wish Designer

Sally, The Wish Designer

When designing Roxy's wish, the Make-A-Wish Wish producers and designers were inspired by Roxy's own rainbow umbrella.

"We knew her favourite thing was to lay down and look up at her rainbow umbrella at home," Creative Wish Lead Sally Struzinski said, "she would get lost in the colours and look so calm and peaceful. We wanted her to have that experience on a larger scale, with hundreds of these umbrellas."

While researching Roxy's ultimate wish, Roxy's mum, Simone, the Make-A-Wish volunteers, and Sally all stumbled across the Rainbrella Project at Queensland's Ginger Factory.

"Having the wish there was a no-brainer, but we wanted to take her love of rainbows and create a whole journey Roxy could experience that would stay with her past the wish day," Sally said.

In the lead-up to the wish, Sally and her colleagues sought to build Roxy's anticipation.

"We used Roxy's love of rainbow colours to explore with her what each colour meant, giving her fun and interactive tasks to earn a bead for each colour so that she could create two rainbow necklaces at the end," Sally said, "one for her and one to gift to the Rainbrella artist Sophy when they finally met."

"In the lead-up and anticipation, the volunteers also created a storybook of her wish, all the wonderful things she would be doing, and the rainbow adventures she would have."

Sally said the aim of Roxy's entire stay in Queensland went beyond just the Rainbrella Project.

"On her wish, she would look for rainbows everywhere she went: the blue sea, the green rainforest, the colourful fish at SeaLife, all ending with her Rainbrella experience," Sally said. "Sharing and reminding everyone that there are rainbows in life, wherever you look for them."

Sally said working on Roxy's wish was a reminder to "embrace the simple pleasure in life".

"Whenever I see a rainbow, I'll always think of Roxy and what her wish meant not only to her but to every person involved," she said.

Smiling woman with Mickey ears and a wand

Roxy's Guitarist

The Wish Day Guitarist

As a popular wedding DJ and musician, Paul Vercoe’s diary quickly gets full. A former contestant on Australian Idol who made the top 13 in 2006, Paul is in demand in Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast.

But when the call came to be part of Roxy’s rainbow umbrella wish, Paul knew what he wanted to do.

“Initially, I felt that this was more important than anything else in my life at the time,” he said, "if I could make a young girl smile, that’s what I wanted to do.”

Paul and his guitar travelled to The Ginger Factory on the Sunshine Coast on Roxy’s wish day, and he played ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ and other uplifting songs.

Paul said growing up with a sister with Down syndrome meant he had some idea of the challenges Roxy faces.

“I have two of my own daughters, and they are healthy, so sensing the challenges Roxy’s family is going through made me quite emotional on the day,” Paul said, "I was choking up a couple of times, it was kind of hard to get the songs out, and I had to just look up at the ceiling to try and clear my throat and keep going.”

Paul said he shared the wish experience with friends and family.

“I told them it was a real privilege to be there,” he said, "it makes me feel very proud to be a Wishmaker.”

Man with guitar stands in front of rainbow umbrellas

Find out more below about how you can support the 900 wish kids currently on their wish journey.