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Roseville girl’s wish to go on Disney Cruise comes true

Make-a-Wish Foundation awards her trip following cancer battle
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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The young cancer survivor was in shock when she first saw the cruise ship she was about to board: The vessel was huge.

“It’s bigger than four football fields,” said Kylie Nguyen, 10, eyes widening as she recalled the experience five months later.

The fun was just beginning for the Roseville girl who now attends fourth grade at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School. Kylie spent five days with her family on a Disney Cruise Line vacation in September, after the Sacramento and Northeastern California chapter of the Make-a-Wish Foundation granted her wish.

The national foundation grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses, and has fulfilled more than 200,000 since completing its first wish in 1980.

Doctors diagnosed Kylie with leukemia in May 2010 and she underwent intensive treatment for 10 months. She lost her hair twice as a result of chemotherapy, and now boasts a collection of stylish hats she continues to wear even though her hair has grown back.

Kylie is in “maintenance,” which describes treatment given to help prevent cancer from returning after the initial therapy.

During her illness, Kylie’s parents spent many days and nights by her side in the hospital, while also caring for their two younger children, Dylan, 7, and Hayden, 4. Her mom, Christy Nguyen, said the cruise offered the family a much-needed reprieve.

“It was so nice to be away from everything — no medical treatments, no doctors appointments,” she said.

When Kylie was sick, the family couldn’t travel, so the cruise was the first big trip and significant amount of time the Nguyens had together in more than a year. The experience also gave Kylie a chance to be a normal kid again.

“It was so much fun and we just hadn’t been able to do things like that (during her treatment),” Christy Nguyen said.

She and husband Don Nguyen surprised their children the night before they were set to leave for Florida, where they would board the ship. During the adventure, Kylie ate chocolate mousse, met Disney characters — including her favorite Minnie Mouse — and attended themed parties, such as Pirate Night.

“It was so funny because we were walking around the ship and Peter Pan just came leaping by,” she said. “Dylan and I laughed about that.”

She and her family — her grandparents paid their own way to tag along — also went to live shows.

“The best one was ‘The Villains’ because it had all the villains in it,” Kylie said.

The travelers stopped off at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, and Nassau, the capital city of the Bahamas, and swam with dolphins. But the highlight for Kylie was speeding down the ship’s large waterslide.

The Make-a-Wish Foundation relies on the contributions of businesses and individual donors to make wishes come true.

Smog ‘N Go on Stanford Ranch Road in Rocklin sponsored the Nguyens' cruise. The business’s six locations have donated a combined $200,000 to the Make-a-Wish Foundation since 2000.

“When my wife and I opened the company, we wanted to give back to the community and we thought what better way than to help the children of Make-a-Wish?” said owner Jack Williams. “It’s been a wonderful experience for us.”

With each wish averaging a cost of $6,000, Williams estimates his company has helped grant about 30 wishes. He said these wishes give kids a chance to be with their families and think about something other than their illnesses.

“I’m lucky to have four healthy children and four healthy grandchildren,” Williams said. “(I’m able) to bless somebody that’s going through something kids shouldn’t have to go through.”

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.