Young Layla Katzel is all smiles despite having faced more than her fair share of health issues during her brief six years of living.
The little Brookswood girl, and her family – mom Christine, dad Bryson, and sisters Charlie, 10, and Annie, seven – are bound for the Disney Aulani Resort in Hawaii in May for their first family vacation.
The kindergarten student from Belmont Elementary was selected to receive this trip from Children’s Wish Foundation and thanks in part to Pacific Blue Cross.
While much of the Katzel family is “over the moon excited” about the excursion, the reality hasn’t sunk in for Layla.
“Layla is cognitively delayed, so she really has no understanding of the wish trip,” Mom explained.
“But we know that once we start the trip, she will be extremely excited about all the sights, sounds, and new experiences.And her big sisters will be equally thrilled by the experience,” Christine added.
In the past five years, the Children’s Wish Foundation of B.C. and the Yukon has granted wishes for 10 Langley children fighting life-threatening illnesses – Layla included on that list.
She was born with Down syndrome and various birth defects that required multiple surgeries at a young age.
Then, at only 20 months old, Layla was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.
While she was originally referred to Children’s Wish by an oncology nurse at BC Children’s Hospital – during her chemo treatments – her parents didn’t learn about the offering until Layla was almost four, and had to reluctantly ask Wish organizers to hold off.
“We were overwhelmed and grateful at the offer, after all we had been through as a family,” Mom explained.
But Layla also required open heart surgery to repair an atrial septal defect and rebuild her valve. Because of the cancer treatments, that surgery wasn’t possible until June 2015, and her parents wanted to wait until Layla’s heart surgery was completed and “to ensure she was as healthy as possible,” Mom said.
“The wish gave us something wonderful to look forward to,” she added, noting “Layla is now healthy and strong, and nearing four years in remission from her cancer.”
So finally, this May, her Disney wish will be granted.
While it’s been years in the making, Christine noted that Children’s Wish has still been a part of the Katzel’s lives for sometime.
Layla has been invited to other Children’s Wish events, including a princess tea last May at the Coast Hotel and Convention Centre in Langley, and more recently a Flight in Search of Santa in December with Air Transat.
Her parents couldn’t be more grateful for all that Children’s Wish and others continue to do for their family.
“With our upcoming wish trip, Pacific Blue Cross is providing our family with travel insurance,” which Christine said might not sound like a big deal to many, but is huge for her family.
“For the past 28 years, Blue Cross plans in Canada have provided travel insurance to help the Children’s Wish Foundation grant heartfelt travel wishes to more than 13,000 children. Many Wish children have pre-existing health conditions that are otherwise ineligible for coverage. The insurance frees families like ours from the worry of costly health setbacks so we can experience the joy of travel, something that otherwise would hold us back from a holiday such as this.”
To help celebrate Children’s Wish Month in the month of March and raise money for wishes like Layla’s, Pacific Blue Cross has also teamed up with the B.C. & Yukon Chapter of the Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada to host a text-based fundraiser called BLUEWISH.
People can help grant wishes, just like Layla’s, by texting BLUEWISH to 80100 to give $5, $10 or $20, Christine explained.
Donations can also be made online at www.textbluewish.ca. During March only, Pacific Blue Cross will match donations to help reach a goal of $10,000 – the average cost of a wish.
Time is of the essence, Mom added, noting that Layla has been featured in this month’s fundraising campaign.