McKenzie is a beautiful six-year-old girl. She is polite and witty and has a sweet face that could melt any heart. She is a little shy at first but, once she warms up, you quickly learn that she has a creative imagination and could talk your ear off for hours.
Last year McKenzie was diagnosed with leukemia. She spent days in the hospital receiving treatments and a stem-cell transplant and fighting a battle that no child should ever have to face. McKenzie met her diagnosis head on and is currently in remission.
WestJet had the privilege of welcoming McKenzie into our family this year and, in partnership with Make-A-Wish Canada and with the support of WestJet Vacations, we were able to grant her special wish to visit Hawaii to swim with the dolphins.
Through the WestJet Cares for Kids program, we support six national charities that address children’s health and wellness issues, including Make-A-Wish Canada, an organization we’ve supported since the program was launched in 2007. Through the donation of gift-of-flight vouchers, we support Make-A-Wish Canada with their business travel needs and fund development initiatives across Canada and we help fulfill their mission to grant magical wishes – specifically travel wishes – to children living with life-threatening medical conditions.
Make-A-Wish Canada marks their 30th anniversary in 2013. WestJet has been a part of many travel wishes, but we wanted to do something special to mark the 30th anniversary, so we adopted our first wish. This meant going beyond the gift-of-flight voucher and helping to grant a wish from start to finish.
WestJet was thrilled to be able to grant McKenzie’s wish – including throwing a wish-reveal party. While McKenzie was at pre-school, we decorated her home with Hawaiian-themed decorations and a dolphin-shaped cake. Seeing her face as she walked into her living room was a great moment, and sharing the news that her wish was granted and she’d travel to Hawaii with her family (including her Grandma Irena) in just a few short weeks was a dream come true.
At the airport, WestJetters provided McKenzie’s family with a dedicated check-in counter decked out with waves and balloons. A ukulele player serenaded them and a hula dancer performed – McKenzie was all smiles! At the gate, the family was greeted by a group of seven- and eight-year-old jazz dancers performing a song called Catch a Wave, equipped with surf boards and all. As the flight boarded, all of the guests were decorated with leis. It was drizzling that Friday afternoon but that didn’t stop the ground crew from crafting a huge Aloha, McKenzie sign she could see from her seat on the aircraft.
McKenzie and her family were a mix of excited and nervous as the moment McKenzie would swim with the dolphins approached but, once they were in the water, all nerves melted away. They all smiled from ear to ear while they enjoyed the moment and their time together.
This is one amazing family, and McKenzie is a remarkable girl. We thank them for letting WestJet be a part of McKenzie’s wish trip and for letting us share her incredible story. As one of the WestJetters who was fortunate enough to be a part of it all, this is a trip I will always hold close to my heart and look back on fondly.
Watch the video of McKenzie’s wish journey.