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By Crissy Gofigan. March 21, 2012 - 2:00 pm
Members of the HPU Cheer and Dance squads delivered a wish at Disney’s Aulani Resort and Spa ® in Kapolei, March 1.
They weren’t there to compete, however. But their routine that morning would be one just as memorable as any other competition. They were there to make dreams come true.
Just days before, Jessica Walz, HPU Head Dance Coach, and Savanna Sibley, HPU Head Cheer Coach and master’s in communication candidate, received an email from HPU’s athletics marketing coordinator Lauren Conching about a young girl’s passion for cheerleading and an opportunity for the teams to be part of her “wish”.
“The little girl is a huge fan of cheerleading and dance, so Make-A-Wish ® wanted to know if HPU cheer and dance could meet and greet her at the Aulani Resort,” Sibley said. “The answer was ‘absolutely YES’.”
With less than a week to prepare, the local Make-A-Wish ® Hawaii chapter created a magical week of fun and relaxation for local wish child Sarah*.
Sarah’s trip included a six-day stay at Aulani, complete with spa treatments and a private session at Aulani’s Makai Reserve for stingrays.
Camilla Crescenzo, Communications and Development Manager for Make-A-Wish ® Hawaii and an HPU alumna, arranged for the special cheer. Crescenzo, who’s worked with the Hawaii chapter for almost a year, believes that it’s the small details that create an unforgettable wish.
“We all have something that we can share or give to someone else that will make a huge difference to them,” said Crescenzo. “I think sometimes people forget how little it takes to do something special for someone else, it doesn’t take much.”
The teams met with Make-A-Wish representatives a little after 10 a.m., an hour before Sarah was scheduled for a casual stroll through one of Aulani’s makai-side gardens.
Minutes before her arrival, the teams lined up alongside the garden pathway, one on each side, anxiously awaiting their special guest’s arrival. As Sarah, accompanied by her two older siblings, was wheeled down the path by her parents, the dancers cheered her on, reciting the HPU spirit cheer.
For the next half hour, the teams performed their award-winning routines for Sarah who watched in awe as gymnasts somersaulted across the lawn and girls seemed to fly into the air safely returning to their teammates awaiting arms.
Even the overcast clouds seemed to take a cue from the participants below and parted. And the warm Hawaii sun seemed to be a reflection of the bright gleam that spread across the young cheer enthusiast’s face.
After the routines, the teams presented Sarah with several gifts, their greatest, being a National Championship Cheer jacket and invitation as an honorary cheerleader for Sarah.
“Her face lit up and you could see the happiness,” Sibley said. “They have welcomed her in our ‘Ohana’ and she will always and forever be in the hearts of HPU cheer and dance.”
The event was the first of many for Abby Marshall, 23, health science major, senior, who also works as a wish assist coordinator for Make-A-Wish.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to give back and be a part of something bigger,” Marshall said.
Todd Apo, Aulani public affairs director, said Disney Parks & Resorts has a long history with Make a Wish Foundation and plans on continuing the relationship here in Hawaii.
“We are able to combine the cultural experience with the magic of Disney,” said Apo. “It is great that we are able to continue those efforts here at Aulani.”
Also present was Daniel Chun, Regional Manager, Sales & Community Marketing- Hawai’i Alaska Airlines and Make-A-Wish board member.
“It was quite a production for a very special little girl and it was very hard no to be moved by the generosity of the HPU team and the joy that it brought to [Sarah] and her family,” Chun said.
“This was a blessing in disguise for [Sarah], but little does she know it was a blessing to our HPU Cheer and Dance program as well,” Head Cheer Coach Sibley said.
“I think it made all of cheer and dance realize how lucky they were to have what they have, and to have their Ohana here on the island,” Sibley said.
After the gifts, the dancers reformed their lines as their newly appointed cheer member rolled through one final time. But not before turning back around to raise a shaka and throw a kiss goodbye to all her wish granters.
*Due to the child’s fragile medical situation and to respect the privacy of the family, Kalamalama has chose not to print “Sarah’s” photo or real name.