InterAct makes wish come true for Bristol girl

By LISA CAPOBIANCO

STAFF WRITER

Last year, Make-A-Wish Connecticut granted 240 wishes statewide to children with life-threatening medical conditions.

One of these wishes was granted to 8-year-old Zoe Brown of Bristol, who felt ecstatic last March to meet the cast of the Disney Channel series, “Liv and Maddie,” including actress Dove Cameron.

Last Monday, Zoe and her mom, Lisa, shared their story with Bristol Central High School’s InterAct Club, which presented a $1,500 donation to Make-A-Wish Connecticut. Students raised the funds during the 18th annual Powder Puff football game.

Zoe said her favorite part of the experience was taking home a pillow from the Halloween-themed set, adding how happy she felt to take the trip with her parents and little brother.

Nearly six years ago, Zoe was diagnosed with an extremely rare immune disease that impacted her brain, leading her through chemotherapy and transfusions. This past November, however, Zoe went into remission.

After getting approval to fly a plane out to Hollywood, Zoe and her family felt grateful to get out of the hospital for a week. During their time there, the Bristol family also visited both Disneyland and Universal Studios.

“It changed everything for all of us because it was out of the hospital. It was something fun that we could all do as a family… because we were in the hospital every two weeks for infusions,” said Lisa, adding how her family ate like “kings and queens” on the trip. “We are so proud that Make-A-Wish was able to do this for us because it made all of us feel like there was a light at the end of the tunnel, just to push us through to get to remission.”

To date, Zoe attends school in West Hartford, where she receives emotional support from the University of Hartford Hawks. She was connected to the Hawks through Team IMPACT, a non-profit organization that pairs college athletic teams with children who have life-threatening illnesses or life-altering chronic conditions.

“They come and visit her,” said Lisa, adding how her daughter appeared on television with the Hawks several times.

Zoe also plays the violin.

“These are all things we were told we would never do,” said Lisa. “We were told [Zoe] would probably never walk, speak. She’d be confined to a wheelchair or a walker—that she would not live a typical life, so we’re very excited we beat all of that.”

Founded in 1986, Make-A-Wish Connecticut has granted more than 2,700 wishes statewide since its inception. One of over 60 regional chapters in the U.S., Make-A-Wish Connecticut has over 300 registered volunteers.

The average cost of a wish for a Connecticut child is $10,000, and 77.2 percent of every dollar donated to the Connecticut chapter goes directly toward a child’s “one true wish.”

Diana Maynard, the development manager of Make-A-Wish Connecticut, told Interact Club members about the kind of impact that donations like theirs has made.

“We’re 100-percent donor-funded and we rely on donations from people in groups like you to grant wishes,” Maynard told the InterAct Club, which also received a certificate from the Connecticut chapter. “Last year, we granted 240 wishes just in Connecticut alone, which is amazing.”

Two years ago, Make-A-Wish Connecticut honored the InterAct Club for donating over $25,000 to the chapter. To date, the club is reaching the $30,000 mark in its fundraising efforts for Make-A-Wish.

“We had a student 18 years ago whose mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, and their family had received a wish. It pleases her so much that we’ve continued her tradition,” said Bristol Central High School teacher Kelly Monahan-Dinoia, who is a co-advisor of the InterAct Club.