William Placido: Make-A-Wish sends SP boy to Disneyland
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula News
Published: August 14, 2013
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula Times
William Placido had never visited the “Happiest Place on Earth” until a trip to Disneyland was made possible for the 6-year-old Santa Paula boy and his family by Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties, the organization that turns dreams into reality for kids with life-threatening medical conditions. And that experience could be a game-changer for William, the one belief that guides the organization that grants a wish on average every 38 minutes in the hopes it will change the lives of the kids.
It was some trip for William, who lives with muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair. He had a private meeting with Mickey Mouse, just part of the special treatment he and his family received for their multi-day visit.
Lupe Castro of Santa Paula has been helping to grant children’s wishes for a decade after she retired from the Santa Paula Elementary School District and started volunteering for Make-A-Wish, an organization supported by former Superintendent Bonnie Bruington. Lupe and Ed Pinsky of Ventura, a volunteer since February and “a Make-A-Wish newbie,” he laughed, hosted the wish party for William and his family.
After two surgeries and long hospitalizations, William’s physician Dr. Heather Nichols spoke to William’s parents and then referred him to the organization to have his wish granted. Noted Lupe, “Dr. Nichols said William should have his wish.”
According to Lupe - she and others who volunteer to make such arrangements are known as Wish Granters - it took about 10 weeks to finalize the plans for William’s Disneyland trip. The process includes garnering permission from the child’s physician, completing paperwork and getting the approval of the wish committee. “Sometimes, if it’s an emergency we can get a wish completed earlier,” Lupe noted.
The family - William, his parents Maria and Trinidad, 8-month-old brother
Jayden, brother Jeremy, 3, and cousin Ermy Placido - headed to Disneyland last Sunday and stayed until Wednesday. They were picked up and delivered to a nearby hotel via limo, given spending money, and during their visits to Disneyland had the one-on-one with Mickey Mouse in the private Wish Lounge on Main Street.
Lupe said when she went by the family’s home leading up to the trip, “When I pulled up William was outside and he came up to me in his wheelchair before I even had a chance to stop the car.... He was so excited!”
“I’m happy!” William exclaimed during his wish granting celebration, held at Los Arcos. The family has lived in Santa Paula for four years, coming from Oxnard. Trinidad Placido is a farmworker.
“We’re very grateful to Make-A-Wish for doing this for our son,” Maria Placido said. “Making this a reality is something we could not do... we thank everyone who makes these wishes possible.”
“God bless and thank you,” said Trinidad.
“Thank you!” piped up Jeremy.
The family also received a special “Toy Story” gift bag stuffed with goodies including special Make-A-Wish Hot Wheels. Girls who are granted wishes receive a special edition doll.
Lupe was also there Sunday “to see them off at noon.... William was so excited with the white limo and so anxious to get inside,” as the neighbors watched.
“William’s favorite thing in Disneyland was the fireworks.” Lupe noted Maria said her son’s “eyes got teary from excitement” as he watched the polytechnic display.
When William came home he told Lupe “there was water that danced with music and had a lot of pretty colors. He enjoyed the cars in Cars Land and all the rides they were able to get on. He said there was an area just for kids, but they let his mom and dad get on the kid rides” with him.
Lupe said Make-A-Wish also provided money for William’s parents “to have a good time and buy and eat whatever they wanted,” and their first night in Anaheim the family ate at an Italian restaurant. Lupe was told, “William said ‘it’s my party and I can order anything I want’ so he did!”
William came home with mementos of his Disneyland visit: a Star Wars sword and toys, Toy Story toys, and a beach towel decorated with all the Disney characters to remind him of a trip he’ll never forget. The family, said Lupe, again expressed their appreciation to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
William’s wish granting is one of four Lupe was involved in just this month. She can’t count how many others she’s been involved with over the years.
Lupe started at Make-A-Wish as an office volunteer. After about a year she underwent the background check and took the eight hours of training to become a Wish Granter.
“I had a pretty good life,” and Ed said after he retired he was looking for a way to give back. “One day in Ventura I was getting an oil change and I took a walk... I saw the door to the Make-A-Wish office and I went in. I love kids,” which helped Ed decide on the organization devoted to kids facing so many challenges.
William’s wish granting is the first completed one that Ed - a noted photographer - has been involved in, while Lupe said she has been involved in “at least 15 Wishes in just the last four years,” including children in Santa Paula and Fillmore.
Ed said, “It’s a common misconception that Make-A-Wish is only for kids” facing their final days. He encourages people to contribute to the organization that relies heavily on donated frequent flyer miles as well as cash. If all 87 wishes are granted this year as scheduled, it will set a record for the Tri-Counties chapter of providing hope, strength and joy to children.
According to a 2011 U.S. impact study, most health professionals believe a wish-come-true can have positive impacts on the health of children. Kids say wishes give them renewed strength to fight their illnesses, and their parents believe these experiences help strengthen the entire family.
With a staff of only four and the help of more than 100 volunteers, the regional chapter has granted more than 1,200 special wishes to children in Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. To refer a child with a wish, call 1-888-899-9474. Donations may be sent to Make-A-Wish, 4222 Market St., Suite D, Ventura CA 93003.
For more information visit the website: www.tri-counties.wish.org.