Like many young people, 18-year-old Sydney Battista has goals and dreams.
The Bucknell University Freshman and Newtown Square native has always envisioned herself scuba diving off the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Now, she will have her chance. The trip, though, follows a devastating set of circumstances. In the spring of 2008, Sydney was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
“I was having flu-like symptoms. When I found out what it was, it was shocking. It didn’t feel real,” Sydney said.
It hasn’t been easy for Sydney, who has been through eight rounds of chemotherapy, as well as six months of physical therapy. Considering the grueling treatment she’s been through, Sydney says she’s very excited Make-A-Wish and are helping to fulfill her dream.
On Jan. 4, Sydney will leave for Sydney, Australia. She will travel with her dad and sister and spend nine days Down Under, where she’ll get to scuba dive.
“I can never repay Make-A-Wish for this feeling, for the trip. They told me to ‘dream big,’ and I’ve always wanted to go to Australia,” she said.
On Friday, Dec. 9, designated “National Believe Day,” Sydney was presented with a Macy’s gift card, luggage, and a makeover at the in preparation for her big trip.
In honor of “National Believe Day,” Sydney asked her family, friends, neighbors, and other community members to write a letter to Santa to drop in the special “Believe Mail Box” at Macy’s. Each letter will generate a dollar, with a goal of up to one million dollars toward the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Fellow Make-A-Wish Foundation recipient, Megan Henry, was on hand to share in Sydney’s excitement and hand over a special delivery herself.
Since Thanksgiving break, the 18-year-old student has collected an overwhelming 1,800 letters to Santa. The students at O’Hara helped out, as did some nearby grade schools.
As a “wish kid” herself, Megan understands the value of this program. She has been battling a disease called Wegener’s granulamatosis, which is a rare condition that restricts blood flow to certain organs, including lungs, upper respiratory tract and kidneys.
“I found out in July of 2010. I had a lot of ear infections and sinus problems. I couldn’t breathe when I was running. I thought I would never be a normal teenager again,” Megan said. “I had chemo once a month for six months with some nasty side effects, including medicine that made me look funny. My face blew up.”
She said it helped to visualize herself on the beach during her treatments, so when Make-A-Wish offered her a trip, she chose Hawaii. She spent ten days in Maui with her dad, mom and brother. There she experienced adventures like ziplining, a helicopter ride, ATV excursions, and of course, the luaus.
“Going on the trip made me realize I have the courage to keep fighting, and there is no reason to give up,” Megan said.
As for her future, she said she would like to go in to the medical field and continue exercising.
“Now I’m back to normal, back to running again, and feel as good as I can,” she said.
With memories of an amazing trip to Hawaii and a bright future ahead, Megan wished fellow recipient Sydney "bon voyage", and surely a life full of healthy, happy memories.
For more information on Make-A-Wish Foundation and the “Believe” campaign, visit their official website.