At just 3 months old, Phoenyx suffered from non-accidental head trauma that led to a severe brain injury and significant damage to her nervous system. These injuries caused Phoenyx to develop and endure many difficult health issues, including seizures, developmental delays, and a form of cerebral palsy that causes tight muscles in all four limbs.
At age 4, Phoenyx’s mom, Emily, brought Phoenyx into her life through adoption after learning about her diagnosis. Phoenyx’s diagnosis caused her to be dependent for most daily activities, relying on a wheelchair for mobility and a feeding tube for nutrition. She was given little hope of ever being able to eat, talk or move. She frequently saw a specialty doctor to improve bodily functions and underwent therapy to address delays in her motor skills.
Throughout the years of therapy and doctor visits, Phoenyx’s medical team has been blown away by her progress. She can now talk and loves to listen to music. She can move with assistance, swimming in warm water to relax tighten muscles during therapy. She even works on driving a motorized wheelchair in the summer months.
After a neighbor suggested that Phoenyx may qualify for a wish through Make-A-Wish South Dakota, Emily referred Phoenyx and was informed that they would soon receive a wish. Emily stated, “We were so surprised and could not believe Phoenyx was chosen for such an amazing opportunity. [There were] tears of joy thinking of the wonderful things to come.”
Phoenyx knew she wanted to wish for something that she could use for many years. Her mom suggested that she wish for her own motorized wheelchair. However, Phoenyx wanted a place where she play freely with her friends, jumping and swinging like she did on the equipment at her school.
Many times, Phoenyx’s condition prevented her from playing independently on equipment. Make-A-Wish South Dakota hoped to make this wish transformational for Phoenyx, so staff collaborated with many businesses to create a customized play system for Phoenyx. The final product would allow her to jump independently on a trampoline by utilizing retrofitted rehabilitation equipment.
Phoenyx’s play system was revealed to her on a warm July day after many months of planning. That day, Phoenyx and her best friend were given a limo ride to get a manicure, cupcakes and a Build-A-Bear stuffed animal that said, “Happy Wish Day Phoenyx, I love you!” Phoenyx returned home after a fun day to family and friends in her backyard with her new, interactive playground. She enjoyed food, tested out the equipment and even received a 1:1 art lesson. Recalling the day, Emily remembered “It was the hottest day of the summer, but the smiles never stopped. The wish in itself was unbelievable. Make-A-Wish took our jumping idea and made it bigger than ever imagined!”
Emily reflects, “I frequently think of the joy that was present in our backyard [on her wish day]. We were given a beautiful video capturing the day and we watch it a lot! Watching the video brings tears to my eyes seeing all of our loved ones there seeing Phoenyx be able to jump independently.”
After the wish reveal, Phoenyx enjoyed jumping on her trampoline every day and inviting friends over to play. Emily claimed, “We have had so many smiles and laughter with multiple friends since being provided our interactive backyard playground!” Phoenyx even utilized skills learned in her art lesson on days she couldn’t play outside, creating beautiful masterpieces.
Phoenyx and her mother are so grateful for their interactive playground which was made possible by so many generous and creative donors! These include Central States Manufacturing, SoloStep Inc., Mablay Construction, Rainbow Play Systems Midwest, Midwest Metal Works, RCC Photography and Service First Federal Credit Union. A special thanks to the wish granters Lacey, Hannah, Marlee and Debbie who helped make this day transformational!