Eliza, 18-years-old, was a devoted ballerina who had mastered plies and pirouettes until she was diagnosed with a medical condition that would ultimately rob her of her ability to dance. After being diagnosed with a disease of the nervous system, she had to work towards her new normal. Part of starting this new chapter was receiving and learning to maneuver a wheelchair. “I remember what it was like not to be able to keep up, and how my wheelchair gave me freedom again,” she recalled. Regaining her independence is what drove Eliza to look for a way that she could give the same feeling to those in need. Everything fell into place when she was referred to Make-A-Wish® Colorado and came across an organization called Joni and Friends who specializes in the distribution of wheelchairs in developing countries. Here Eliza’s wish to give wheelchairs to those in Poland was fulfilled.
Arriving in Poland, Eliza was overcome with mixed emotions. On the one hand she was thrilled to be there, but on the other hand, she felt that she could do more for these people if she were not confined to a wheelchair. Eliza’s mentor on the trip told Eliza just the opposite. She is the exact role model these recipients need. Who else can relate and speak to their experience more than Eliza, who is living the same battle every day? With that in mind, Eliza had a new found strength. Her bond with Joni propelled her to fulfill her wish and experience all that Poland had to offer.
Eliza instantly fell in love with the Polish culture and architecture of old town Warsaw. She also enjoyed venturing out to try some of the local cuisines. Eliza spent six days traveling around Poland and dedicated four days to connecting with locals who were in need of a wheelchair. “While there was a language barrier, no language was required,” Eliza shared, “It was a common experience that I shared with them.”
Because of her wish experience, Eliza realized the strength within her and found a purpose to her condition. “I came back with a new view on my life,” she shared. Now she hopes to continue to share her story in hopes of inspiring others while continuing to help give others their freedom back through wheelchair donations.