Make-A-Wish experiences have the power to transform the life of a child, a family and a community forever.
When eight-year-old Sophia Robinson is wheeled out of surgery, her mom immediately texts two people. Sophia’s grandmother, followed by Mariners legendary pitcher, Felix Hernandez.
The family is not related to “King Felix,” but they do have a special bond that began in 2013 when Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington, the nonprofit that grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions, introduced them.
Battling two congenital heart defects, Sophia wished to meet Felix Hernandez and eat a hot dog in the “super secret” Mariners clubhouse at Safeco Field.
The family flew from their home in Anchorage to Seattle for the once-in-a-lifetime trip, marking one of their only times coming to Seattle for fun rather than for a life-saving treatment. Sophia has had more medical procedures – including six heart surgeries, two of which have been open-heart with another planned soon – than she has had birthdays.
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It’s actually because of all the time she’s spent hospitalized, resting and recovering, in Seattle that she fell in love with baseball – and with the Mariners and Felix in particular.
Sophia quickly won over Felix’s heart, as he got down on his knees to play in the dirt on the baseball field with her. “It was amazing and normal all at once,” says Talia.
After some time on the field, next up was a tour of the private clubhouse. With Felix as her personal tour guide, the family sat down to share a special meal: corn dogs. Felix ate one corn dog; she ate two. For Sophia, this was the highlight of the entire wish.
During his tenure with the Mariners, Felix has met many Wish kids and the importance of that meeting is not lost on him. “When you hear that someone wants to meet you, it’s special,” he says. “It means a lot, it means that you are a hero, you are a role model.”
Seeing her daughter interact with her role model was Talia’s favorite part of the wish. “You could tell they were truly impacted and interested in her,” she says. “When you had a 6’3″ and 230-pound guy making faces to make her smile, it made my heart melt.”
Four years later and the wish still brings smiles to the entire Robinson family and it continues to live on. In fact, the Robinson family is attending the Mariners’ home opener at Safeco and Sophia has been asked to participate in the opening ceremony by running the bases.
A wish is an experience that has the power to transform the life of a child, a family and a community forever.
“Sophia’s wish is a great example of how a wish allows everyone involved to experience true happiness, giving children renewed energy and strength, bringing families closer together, and uniting communities,” says Barry McConnell, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington.
In fact, research shows children who have a wish granted build the physical and emotional strength they need to fight a critical illness, giving them a higher quality of life and better health outcomes.And there are many other children like Sophia who need a wish.
“In the past four years, the number of children waiting for a wish has doubled. Right now, more than 500 kids are waiting for a wish and that’s just the beginning,” says McConnell. “One in five children are not being referred to Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington because they are not aware of our program.”
To learn more about Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington, visit akwa.wish.org or follow them on Facebook.