Photos by Rachael Long
By RACHAEL LONG
Imagine you’re four years old again, in love with fairy tales and Disney princesses. Now, imagine they’re standing right in front of you, crowning you one of them and paying your way to Disney World.
If it sounds too good to be true, it’s not.
Four-year old Adaleine “Addy” Fernlund’s wish to go to Disney World was granted Friday morning at a Ravenwood High School a pep assembly. Nearly two dozen students dressed up as famous characters to surprise the young girl who was diagnosed with a rare brain cancer, Anaplastic Astrocytoma.
Addy’s mom, Linsie Fernlund, and little brother Newt were at the school Friday to celebrate the news with her. Biting back emotion, Linsie said the experience moved her.
“They’ve made this experience really, really special,” Linsie said. “It’s just amazing how they brought this together to do this for her. The community coming together for her and for other kids like her, it’s just been really moving.”
View this post on Instagram
Today, students at @ravenwoodhighschool made the dreams of 4-year old Adaliene Fernlund come true by announcing she would get to go to Disney World as part of their #MakeAWish partnership. This marks the 10th year of RHS dedication to making dreams come true through fundraisers. Story to follow soon! #DisneyWorld #anythingyourheartdesires #friday #friyay
Linsie said doctors removed the tumor from the left hemisphere of Addy’s brain in August 2017, but the journey wasn’t over. Addy had to complete six months of radiation at St. Jude and started chemotherapy the day after Christmas that year.
She’s not done with doctor visits, as Addy will have to have regular MRI scans done for several months. But Linsie says things are looking up.
“As of right now, everything’s going really good for her,” Linsie said.
Ravenwood High School has partnered with Make-A-Wish of Middle Tennessee for ten years. In that time, they have raised more than $97,000 granting wishes for children with critical illnesses.
Her mom said Addy will turn five next Wednesday, April 10.
While the program is for children aged 2.5 to 18 years old, Fielder said it’s not only for kids with life-threatening illnesses.
“Eighty percent of our kiddos actually survive and thrive after getting their wish,” Make-A-Wish of Middle Tennessee Development Manager Kasey Fielder said. “We really want the community to know that it’s not your dying wish…you don’t have to be terminally ill to get a wish.”
The big surprise was for Addy, but for the students who put it all together, it was just was magical.
“Belle is my favorite princess, so this is basically a dream come true,” sophomore Lily Wilson said. “But, you know, it’s all about Addy and just getting to see her face was incredible…I teared up. She was precious.”
Wilson is a member of Ravenwood Student Council and was involved in the months of planning that went into Friday’s surprise. She also dressed up as Princess Belle from Beauty and the Beast.
While everything went off without a hitch Friday morning, Wilson said the students have been working out the event details since the beginning of the school year.
“Just knowing that…I actually get to have an impact on this little girl [is really special],” Wilson said.
Even the princes were invited to join in the fun, and senior Jacob Knickerbocker said he loves giving back and helping kids in his community. Knickerbocker dressed as Prince Flynn Rider from Disney’s Tangled and said the ability to give back and make someone’s day is a way to be “prince-like” in real life.
“I’ve experienced this [for the] past three years, and it’s just such a cool atmosphere,” Knickerbocker said. “It’s just so much fun just seeing her reaction.”
Fielder said this was Ravenwood’s biggest year in terms of fundraising, generating just shy of $20,000.
The average cost of a wish, Fielder said, is usually somewhere between $8,000 to $10,000, but there is no fixed amount as every situation is unique.
And while Ravenwood students typically grant wishes that include a Disney World trip, Fielder said there really is no approved list for kids to pick from when choosing a wish. In fact, as long as it’s legal, Fielder said “pretty much anything…is fair game.”
Some kids wished to go abroad, to places like Italy, Paris and Ireland, while others have wished simply for a puppy. In any case, Fielder says Make-A-Wish tries to grant the wish.
“What really helps is that the students are so motivated to give back and really make their fundraising events a success,” Fielder said. “We like that they keep raising money and they don’t stop when they hit their goal…they really work hard and keep going.”
Between a dodgeball tournament, a “Mr. RHS Pageant” and more, the students were able to raise more than enough funds to send Addy to Disney World.
Student Council Lead Advisor Stephanie Dykes said the Ravenwood students take the fundraising and main event “super seriously.” The students raised $15,000 from the Mr. RHS Pageant alone, she said.
“Our kids are just so passionate about it,” Dykes said.
For Addy, her mother said the trip to Disney as always been a dream.
“Ever since we started seeing commercials for it, she’s [said] ‘Mom, I want to go there! Can we got there?” Linsie said, recounting her daughter’s excitement with a laugh.
Now, the answer is “yes.”