In the fall of 2011, Olivia was a vibrant 7th grader, playing soccer and volleyball. Busy with all the social things of a 12-year-old girl. After playing in a soccer game Olivia started complaining of severe back pain.  We thought she had a sports injury but then noticed other symptoms and took her to the doctor.  

She was later diagnosed with life-threatening kidney disease and immediately admitted to the hospital to start treatment.  The next year was full of treatments, weekly blood draws, doctor’s appointments and missing half of her 7th-grade year of school.  She endured it all with grace and strength.  It was heartbreaking as parents to watch her go through so much and feel so helpless.  It was hard on her 9-year-old brother, Luke.  

In 2012 her pediatric nephrologist approached me at an appointment when Olivia was having her blood drawn.  He handed me a Make-A-Wish pamphlet and said he had done some checking and nominated Olivia for a wish if we were ok with it.  The earth stopped for me.  I looked at him and said “Wait, I thought she was going to get better”.  It was the scariest moment of my life.  The doctor said, “She is, and it will help her get through the days ahead to have something to look forward to.” I said we would think about it.

I thought that’s for kids who are dying or for families that need help financially. The next week I called Make A Wish for more information.  They explained to me that it was a Wish for Olivia, and all that she has gone through fighting this disease, to give her hope and joy. How could I say no to that? After talking to her Wish Granter, Olivia wished to go on a Hawaiian cruise.

During her wish experience, her favorite thing was snorkeling in the ocean.  Her and her brother also got to sit in the captain’s chair on the ship. They were so good to her and it was a great experience for all of us.  To relax and enjoy each other away from all the stress of the past year.  

Now at 22, Olivia is a college graduate. She has been out of remission once when she was 19 and after another year of treatments is doing well again.  She is determined to live life to the fullest and continues to amaze us.  We have all volunteered for Make-A-Wish Iowa since Olivia’s Wish, at the gala and in the Wish Shop at Jolly Holiday Lights, until the pandemic.  I also served 7 years on the Board of Directors, helping to support the Make-A-Wish Iowa mission.  We can’t say enough wonderful things about how her Wish helped her and us as a family, giving us hope during some very dark days.

-Shelly, Olivia's mom