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Along for the Ride

Jan 03, 2018 09:54AM ● Published by Digital Media Director

Make-A-Wish can impact more than just the ‘wish kid’...especially in a family of seven.

Mandi Steele of Tea knew there was something wrong with her son Weldon by the time he was one year old. But it wasn’t until he turned 13 that they finally got a diagnosis - a rare subtype of hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP), a degenerative neurological condition. By that time, Weldon had four younger sisters - all of whom have grown up in the shadow of his many needs. 

“My girls are some of the most compassionate, patient understanding and kind human beings,” says Steele of her daughters, now ages 12, 10, 6, and 5. “But the hard part of having all of those qualities is having to be selfless and understand that, if Weldon needs something, he gets it.”

Many “normal” things like ballet lessons and swim classes have been out of the question for Weldon’s sisters, simply because of logistics.

“So I have always felt like the worst mom in the world because my kids haven’t been able to do those other things,” says Steele.

When Weldon’s neurologist referred the family to Make-A-Wish, Steele knew exactly what he’d choose. Weldon had been fascinated by fish and water since young childhood and has long loved a videotape of SeaWorld’s “Shamu Show”.

“We had always wanted to take him there to experience that, but with four other kids, we knew we would never be able to afford it,” says Steele. Make-A-Wish not only arranged to send the family to SeaWorld, but included Universal Studios and the Disney theme parks - a dream come true for Weldon’s little sisters.

“Weldon appreciated the trip, but it was also incredible what it did for my four daughter,” says Steele.. “My 10-year-old said ‘Right now, I’m thankful that we have Weldon as a brother.’ It did so much for them, their relationship with Weldon, and their growth.” For her part, Steele says she relished the break from household duties and the chance to enjoy making memories together.

“It was very therapeutic, actually,” she says.

Find out why it's important to refer kids to Make-A-Wish before they leave the area fortreatment here.

In Print, People Make-a-Wish Steele

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