Ella Phillips has been counting down the days until Nov. 20 rolls around.
The 11-year-old will be packing her bags, getting on a plane and heading to Disney World in Florida for a week with her mother, father and siblings as part of the Help Fill a Dream Foundation’s campaign at the end of the month.
“I thought that I would never be able to go,” said Ella, adding she hopes to spend some quality time with her family. “I’m really, really excited. I’m counting down the days.”
It was a diagnosis that came as a shock to the family of eight, since Ella’s mother Terri was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes six months earlier.
“I was absolutely devastated. It was so shocking to me, because it was something that I was initially very concerned about,” said Terri, adding in the first few months Ella had anxiety attacks, afraid she would die. “It’s really unheard of, it really is a rare thing that I wasn’t prepared for it.”
It was a life-changing diagnosis that forced the family to adjust many aspects of their lives — initially everything took more time and there were many more doctors appointments. Both Ella and Terri have to be incredibly mindful of what they’re eating.
As a result, Ella wasn’t able to do the simple things, such as go to sleepovers with friends in fear her blood sugar would get too low and she would fall into a coma or have a stroke, among other things.
However, over the past six years Ella has learned how to keep the condition in check. She carries an insulin pump the size of a pager everywhere she goes — something her mother does as well.
It was Ella’s perseverance that moved the Help Fill a Dream Foundation, which helps fulfill the dreams of children under the age of 19 with life-threatening conditions on Vancouver Island, to make the young girl’s wish come true.
“She fits within our criteria of having a life-threatening condition . . .
she can go and become a princess,” said Craig Smith, executive director of the foundation. “Dreams are all over the place for kids. It’s whatever they think is going to make them happy.”
It was a trip, Terri said the entire family was shocked and excited to receive and will allow them to forget about Ella’s illness while visiting the happiest place on earth.
“(Ella’s) illness has always been something that has been a source of hurt and pain and suffering. For this to become something that is positive and enriching is such an amazing thing,” Terri said.
The foundation relies mostly on donations to help fulfill a variety of dreams for roughly 10 to 12 families around Vancouver Island annually.
Country Grocer in Esquimalt held a fundraiser for the foundation Tuesday. Over the past five years of the campaign, it has raised more than $600,000 for the foundation.
As for Ella, she’s looking forward to taking a whirl on Space Mountain.