This sick 5-year-old boy got a wish trip to Disney World — and another wish on the flight

2019-10-18 06:46:39

Allegiant Air, working with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, made a 5-year-old boy’s dream vacation to Walt Disney World that much more special on the flight there: By letting him be an honorary flight attendant.

Stephen “S.J.” Awwad’s wish was to spend a week at Walt Disney World with his family. 

He flew out of Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Monday, wearing a kid-sized crew uniform and a customized wings pin with his name.

S.J. handed out pretzels during the flight ⁠– a “wish enhancement,” according to Hilarie Grey, the airline’s managing director of corporate communication ⁠– enamoring passengers along the way.

He also got to see inside the cockpit and shake hands with travelers as they boarded. “Have a nice flight,” he softly told one customer.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation works to grant wishes for children living with critical illnesses. Allegiant has worked with the organization since 2012 and has worked to honor wishes for more than 1,800 children.

“Many of the kids we fly to their wish destinations are traveling to Florida,” Grey said in a press release. “But this is the first time a Wish kid has asked to serve snacks to passengers in flight. We found out from Make-A-Wish that S.J. loves anything to do with flying, so we not only wanted to say ‘yes,’ but aimed to make the experience extra special.”

“This whole experience has just been such a beautiful distraction from our reality,” his mother Danielle Awwad said.

Danielle Awwad told USA TODAY that S.J. was born with 10 separate congenital heart defects. The location of his organs and his heart are “flipped” inside his body.

She said that when it comes time for a heart replacement, surgeons will be “literally trying to put a regular heart in a puzzle.” 

He doesn’t need one yet – “it could happen in two weeks or it could happen in two years,” his mom says – but that will be the only option for him going forward. He’d already undergone three open-heart surgeries by the time he turned three.

When S.J. was born, she said doctors told the family “not even expect him to come home from the hospital.” 

Fighting back tears, Awwad said, “When we were pregnant with him, they told us to not expect to bring a baby home and then to not expect his first birthday, so the fact that he’s 5, gonna be 6, and even here and alive to be able to go on this trip is just so meaningful to us as a family.”

 “He kind of just keeps beating all the odds,” she told USA TODAY.

Since arriving in Disney World, S.J. had the chance to live out yet another dream: Playing baseball with Mickey. “He’s very rambunctious, and he loves baseball and he loves to help others,” Danielle Awwad said. “He’s just a happy kid,” she added.

S.J. turns six years old on Friday.

Uh: Which US airlines have the cleanest – and dirtiest – drinking water?

Woah: Allegiant adds 24 new routes, including a return to Palm Beach, Florida, and Fort Collins, Colorado

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Allegiant, Make-a-Wish fulfill kid’s Disney, flight attendant dream

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