CRESTVIEW — The day before she was born, Ariel Farran was diagnosed with Chromosome 18 Ring, a rare disorder caused by a loss of genetic material.
“They said she would never make it,” said Blanca Farran, Ariel’s mother. “She’s 14 years old and she’s still around. She’s a happy girl.”
“When she was born, they induced her in a coma,” added her father, Joe. “They said she wouldn’t walk or breathe on her own. Now she’s walking, running and going to school.”
Add to that list a dream trip to Orlando theme parks by the Sunshine Foundation.
The family was referred to the foundation, which has a three- to five-year waiting period. The trip came as a surprise Christmas present for the family.
“It’s when you’re not expecting things that it all comes together,” said her father. “We had no idea we were going this year.”
Families can pick where they want to go. Since Ariel loves Elmo, the family wanted to visit Sesame Place, a Sesame Street-themed park in Langhorne, Penn. Due to the distance, the family decided to go to Orlando instead.
The family stayed at the foundation’s Dream Village, a 22-acre resort located in Davenport. They stayed in the Space Cottage, which was redecorated by the Kennedy Space Center in 2014. While in Orlando, the Farrans went to Disney’s Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, as well as both parks at Universal.
While they enjoyed the entire trip, Ariel’s parents said she really enjoyed Dr. Seuss Land at Universal.
Ariel can only use a few words, so she mainly communicates through sign language.
“You enter a colorful world and she was like 'wow,'” said her mother.
Ariel also enjoyed the "Finding Nemo" and "Lion King" shows at Animal Kingdom. She even got to be part of the "Lion King" show.
The family thanked the Sunshine Foundation for the amazing experience.
“They’re very accommodating,” said her father. “Every day they checked on you, see if you needed something. They’re very friendly people.”
The Sunshine Foundation works with children living with life-long chronic illnesses, physical challenges or the trauma of abuse. They provide dream-come-true trips for children who are turned away from other wish-granting organizations that require a life-threatening or terminal diagnosis.
The foundation relies on donations from individuals and corporations to make these dreams a reality.
Since 1976, Sunshine Foundation has spread positivity into the lives of more than 40,000 children in the United States, according to a press release from the organization. It remains one of the nation’s top-rated wish-granting charities, the release said.