Written by Staff
Vacation to Caribbean fulfills dream of 8-year-old Irving girl
By Sissy Courtney
An Elmo balloon bigger than 8-year-old Daja Lomax sat next to her as she dined with her family and new friends at her favorite restaurant, Applebee’s at Grapevine Mills. The Sesame Street/beach themed Bon Voyage party signified Deja’s that dream is coming true.
Thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of North Texas and CheapCaribbean.com, Deja and her family of five will travel to Beaches Turks and Caicos in the Caribbean for six days and five nights. CheapCaribbean.com is providing the airfare and hotel accommodations.
“It’s a blessing to us to have her wish granted,” Daja’s father Harrison Lomax said. “Her therapist at Children’s Hospital referred her, and a social worker set us up with Make-a-Wish Foundation. They came over to our home and talked to her about her wish, and they’re making it happen.
“I had brought some travel brochures home,” Lomax said. “It had a section about beaches for the family, and she has been stuck on it ever since then.”
Deja, who is living with an astrocytoma, a brain tumor, seemed a bit overwhelmed by the attention. But she said she is looking forward to swimming at the beach and to going down a waterslide.
“It’s the most beautiful beach in the entire world,” said Josh Paine, President and CEO of CheapCaribbean.com. “You’re going to have a chance to meet all of the Sesame Street characters. It has the biggest waterpark in all the Caribbean and Mexico. There’s pirate ships, nine slides, a lazy river. You have a chance to go on a catamaran sailing with your family and have scavenger hunts where you get to look for conk shells.”
Paine presented each family member with beach bags filled for their trip. Deja’s bag included an Ipod, goggles, spending money just for her, and her favorite candy, Skittles.
“This is not something that we do; this is who we are,” Paine said. “We are so happy that we are able to partner with you and your family as part of this healing process. It’s taken a lot of work from people who have huge hearts. We get to do several of these wishes each year, and it changes us.”
Plano-based CheapCaribbean.com is the number one U.S. website dedicated to Caribbean and Mexico travel.
"(We) believe that wishes are magical, and is privileged to work with Make-A-Wish to help fulfill this amazing young lady's wish," Nicole Ivey, senior director of marketing and advertising for CheapCaribbean.com, said. "Daja's strength and courage during this tough time is an inspiration to all of us. We're just grateful to celebrate her."
Applebee’s presented Deja with a crocodile stuffed animal, a beach towel, and a $100 gift card to the restaurant. Employees had written her stacks of well-wishes which she took home to read later. The restaurant donated the food and decorated with balloons for the occasion.
“The staff is so excited; some of them have stayed even though they are off the clock because they wanted to be sure the family got good service,” said Camillia Williams, Director of Marketing for Applebees.
Deja was referred to the Make-a-Wish foundation last year.
“Children are referred to us usually by a medical professional, or a parent can refer the child themselves,” said Ashley Amerman, Director of Program Services for Make-a-Wish Foundation of North Texas. “The public can help several different ways: by volunteering their time – we have volunteers that work with our families – or they can make individual or corporate donations or grants. Over 70 percent of our wishes are travel related so donating miles can help a family like Deja’s get to the Caribbean.”
Since 1982, more than 7,000 wishes have been granted throughout the 161 counties Make-A-Wish Foundation serves.
"These beach adventures give wish-kids the opportunity to relax with their families and reclaim their childhood, away from the stresses of medical treatments and hospital visits,” said David A. Williams, president and chief executive officer of Make-A-Wish America. “CheapCaribbean.com and its associates help change lives forever through their support of wish granting and for that we are extremely grateful."
Includes information provided by Make-A-Wish.