Ask many wish kids and they’ll say that their wish carried them through some of the most challenging parts of their childhood. Ask Amanda and she’ll say it took her all the way to a college degree.
When Make-A-Wish volunteers first met Amanda in 2008, she was a 17-year-old girl with a budding talent behind a camera. More than anything, she wanted to have a new camera.
“It’s funny, because most people take pictures to remember their wishes. My wish was to take pictures. Make-A-Wish goes above and beyond, of course, so I got an even better camera than I asked for, plus lenses and gadgets to go with it,” Amanda said.
A week before her surprise wish party, Amanda took a turn for the worse. The symptoms of her autoimmune disease led to diminished motor function in her arms and hands; her increased sensitivity to germs meant she would have to show up to her party in gloves and a surgical mask. Amanda’s mom chatted with the wish granters and they came up with the perfect solution: Why not have all the guests wear gloves and surgical masks, so she didn’t have to? More than thirty guests surprised Amanda with their matching medical accessories when she arrived at her surprise party.
Onward from her Wish
The photos she snapped at her wish party were just the beginning for Amanda. She photographed her way through high school graduation and on to Oklahoma City University. She regularly photographs fundraisers and events as part of her personal mission to raise awareness about autoimmune diseases.
Amanda encourages people with her condition not to let it define who they are. She says they need to find their identity without letting the illness be the focus.
Today, Amanda is 21. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in photography, with a minor in studio art and honors from three different honors societies. Before graduating, she hosted her first solo photography exhibit.
Awareness, Understanding and Insight
The goal of Amanda’s exhibit was to shed light on all the little struggles of her condition, using items and props to simulate her experience. The exhibit featured photographs of the simulations, with the props available for attendees to experience themselves. For example, people could try walking in one slipper and one high heel – experiencing firsthand the disorienting effects of vertigo, a common symptom of her condition. Most of the symptoms, Amanda says, are completely invisible.
“Looking at me, you can’t tell,” she says.
Wish Experience Marked a Turning Point
Amanda isn’t done with school just yet. Amanda plans to earn a second bachelor’s degree, this one in art history, to help her toward her ultimate goal of teaching photography at a college level. The lasting power of a wish is more than just a happy memory for Amanda – it’s her passion, her hobby, her future career, and, ultimately, a greater defining identity for a girl living with an autoimmune disease.
“I would not be who I am without that camera,” Amanda said. “It got me through college. I know it’s cliche, but it changed my life.”