Originally published in the Fort-Myers News Press
by Francesca Donlan

There is always hope.

That’s why the staff and volunteers at Hope hatched a plan to make each moment special for those in their care.

“Everyone who is in Hope’s care has a special wish that gives them hope,” said president and CEO Samira Beckwith.

“They try and grant those wishes,” she said.

Mckenna Smith, a 7-year-old in Hope’s program for chronically ill children, wanted to do only one thing last summer. She wanted to go to the Sun Splash Family Waterpark in Cape Coral.

Sun Splash made it a day to remember, said her father, Jason Smith.

The staff gave all of her friends and family free admissions, lunch and snacks.

“That brightened her summer,” Jason said. “She couldn’t do a lot this summer, and that helped her a lot.”

Mckenna spends most of her life on physical restrictions because of tumors that continue to grow back after they have been removed.

But on that summer day at Sun Splash, no one knew how sick she was.

“She’s a happy, happy child,” Jason said. “But she can’t do soccer or softball or ballet. But she swims like a fish. Everyone there treated her like an angel.”

Doctors were worried about Mia Terranova, 2, who faced heart surgery. Her mother, Amy Hoogstraal, didn’t know if her daughter would survive the operation.

One of Hope’s art therapists made prints of Mia’s tiny feet as a lasting keepsake for the mother, with framing donated by Cape Coral Art & Frame. Wal-Mart store No. 987 in Fort Myers provided toys, story books and other items to help the mother and baby through the long recovery period.

Mia sailed through the operation and endured more than a month in the hospital.

“She’s doing absolutely wonderful,” Amy said. “She was born missing half of her heart, but the prognosis is looking really good.”

The framed prints and the abundance of art materials helped Mia and Amy.

“She was fairly isolated during her recovery,” Amy said. “It meant a lot to us.”

Older patients have wishes, too.

Widner Dolly, 63, mentioned that he would really like to go fishing but had no gear. Bass Pro Shops in Fort Myers fulfilled his Hopeful Wish.

The community plays an important part in Hopeful Wishes, Beckwith said.

“These are all gifts and gestures that will be cherished for a lifetime,” she said.