A wish comes for true for terminally ill ‘princess’
The five-year-old - who calls herself Shanaya the First, after Disney princess Sofia the First - visited Disney World
Once upon a time, a terminally ill Johannesburg girl had a wish to meet a Disney princess.
Tagging her 11 princess dolls along, Shanaya Govender’s wish came true on March 29.
Shanaya and her family spent nine days at Disney World in Florida – a wish that came true thanks to the Reach For A Dream Foundation.
Shayana’s wish is one of 1,600 the organisation aims to grant to children with life-threatening illnesses in 2019.
Among those wishes are dreams to ride in a fast car, to meet President Cyril Ramaphosa, to go to the beach and to have a bedroom makeover.
Shanaya, who turned five in November, was diagnosed with a rare cancer, stage four Ewing sarcoma, with metastasis in both lungs.
Her left arm was amputated a year ago.
Reach For A Dream Foundation head of business Natalie Lazarus told Times Select the organisation became aware of Shanaya through the hospital where she was being treated.
“We work very closely with hospitals in the country, who refer children, who have a life-threatening illnesses, to us. We came across Shanaya and her family and we discovered that her dream was the ultimate experience of meeting a Disney princess. So we made it happen,” she said.
The foundation grants “about one or two Disney dreams annually, or to destinations wherever the child wants to go”.
“It goes through a vetting process and we make it happen.”
Lazarus said Shanaya’s strength and positive attitude motivated the foundation to make her dream come true.
“She is a little girl who has experienced so much in her life, like losing her arm in her illness and degenerating quite quickly, but when you meet her it’s all about having a tea party and she is smiling and she wants you to join in. She is a very positive and inspiring child.”
The foundation’s chief executive, Julia Sotirianakos, said Shanaya’s wish was testament to how ordinary South Africans could make a difference.
“We don’t have a magic wand to grant every wish, but when South Africans come together to help us, we make it happen.”
She said it was heartwarming to see children from the poorest schools donate R10 for Slipper Day.
“It shows that everyone can help and that’s why we have events like Slipper Day.”
Slipper Day, on May 10, calls for everyday heroes to buy a wristband that allows them to wear their favourite slippers for the day.
The organisation made its first wish come true on July 7 1988 when little JC Steinman was treated to a birthday celebration with rides on a pony and a motorcycle.
Since then it has made close to 18,300 dreams come true.