Girl#039;s wish to visit Mickey will come true

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 29, 2004

Some wish to see their favorite athlete, while others want to be a firefighter for a day, but for Sarah Roach of Pedro, her dream of meeting Mickey Mouse is about to come true.

With the help of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Ohio, Sarah, a 7-year-old suffering from Spina Bifida and Meningomyelocele, will leave Monday to visit Walt Disney World until Oct. 24 with her mother Jeanie. Sarah's sign language interpreter Nancy Hall and Hall's son Austin will accompany them.

"We don't get to do a lot because of her disability," Jeanie Roach, 29, said. "It'll (the trip) just mean so much to us."

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Friday, Sarah celebrated with her classmates from Rock Hill Elementary at McDonald's in Ashland, Ky. McDonald's provided the party free of charge, along with the food and cake to feed the entire class, Leah Crabtree, Make-A-Wish volunteer, said.

Two of Sarah's fellow students took time out from playing and eating ice cream to offer their advice as to whom she should look for when she goes to Disney World.

"Mickey," 6-year-old Tanner Guston, said.

"Goofy," almost 6-year-old Bobby Pancake, said.

With the help of her interpreter, Sarah said she was looking forward to seeing the famous mouse.

Sarah's classmates have been very supportive of her, said Vicki Evans, assistant principal for grades K-2 at Rock Hill Elementary.

"She is not treated any differently even though she has special needs," Evans said. "They (students) see her as one of them and they play with her as if she didn't have any disability. That has been a really positive thing for Sarah. She's made a lot of new friends.

"It's also a positive thing for the other children to be able to play with someone who has a problem and see how they can help others and be empathetic to others," Evans said.

Her mother said Sarah's health has been touch-and-go for a while. Last year she was in the hospital from July to November. Sarah uses a walker and leg braces to help her improve her mobility. After her trip, Sarah will be going for additional surgery on Nov. 9.

Because she is deaf, Sarah has been working with Hall for the past three years. Her family's physician referred Sarah to Make-A-Wish, but her recent health problems caused her wish fulfillment to take two years. The average time is a few weeks.

But Sarah hasn't allowed her disability to get her down. Her father, Bob Roach, said Sarah is a happy and active little girl. That seemed evident Friday as she played with her friends in McDonald's play area tunnels, pausing only to open presents from her class and eat some cake.

"She loves to swim," Bob Roach said laughing. "She'd swim right now if we'd let her."

The dreary weather outside prevented Sarah from doing that here at home, but in sunny Orlando, Fla., Sarah will visit all the sites and experience everything Walt Disney World has to offer free of charge courtesy of Make-A-Wish. She and her group will stay at Give Kids the World, a 51-acre, non-profit resort for children with life-threatening illnesses located in Kissimmee, Fla.

"If she has any special needs, they (Give Kids the World) try to make sure everything is taken care of," Leah Crabtree, Make-A-Wish volunteer, said.

In addition, Rent-A-Center gave the family a camcorder to use on the trip and Dawson-Bryant Elementary offered a digital camera capable of taking 400 photographs, Hall said.

The average cost of a wish is about $3,000, said Jennifer Holden, wish program manager for Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Ohio. Like Sarah, most children request to go to Disney World or Disney Land, but Make-A-Wish fulfills a variety of dreams that generally fall into four categories: destination, occupation, celebrity/hero or special gifts.

During the last fiscal year, the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Ohio has granted the dreams of 95 local children diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses, Holden said. The organization defines a life-threatening illness as a progressive, degenerative or malignant medical condition that has placed the child's life in jeopardy.

Make-A-Wish accepts referrals from the parents, doctors or social workers of the ailing child. To make a referral, call (513) 745-9474. For more information about the organization, visit