Making the Most of
Every Moment

It’s said that the key to happiness is loving what you do and having a great support network of friends and family. If that’s the case, then 17-year-old Alanna has plenty – filled with passion projects and an entire community that cheers her on. It’s a welcome change from her early years, which were constantly threatened by a congenital heart condition. But that same condition also created an opportunity for an amazing experience through Make-A-Wish Canada’s Saskatchewan chapter.

Living a Grateful Life

Alanna, her three siblings, and their parents are proud residents of a caring and giving small town in Saskatchewan. Now, as a college student and aspiring entrepreneur, Alanna is giving back to a community that has helped her family so much over the years.

“I’m in college for a business certificate. I started teaching violin last year, so I’d like to use that knowledge to continue with the administrative side of teaching. Then, possibly opening a gluten-free baking business,” Alanna says excitedly.

“I’d like to become a published author, too, so understanding the marketing side of that would be helpful as well.” Her mother explains further. “She wants to write a series of books for kids that have exceptional challenges. To encourage and inspire them so that they can achieve their dreams and have a wonderful life in spite of challenges.”

It’s important for Alanna to dream big and live a life that inspires others to overcome life’s hardships. She knows all about living with challenges, after all. She was born with an interrupted arch and two holes in her heart, having her first surgery at just a few days old and nearly a dozen since. The life-threatening complications have come and gone – lung issues and a paralyzed vocal fold among them – but she has overcome them all. She’s stayed upbeat and grateful for every experience along the way, including the life-changing Make-A-Wish trip she was granted in 2023: a family trip to the Maritimes.

“To just enjoy being together and making wonderful memories…it’s priceless for people that are going through medical challenges.”

Making a Wish Come True

“You hear those little sweet stories of kids getting their wishes…I never considered the fact that I might be eligible,” Alanna recalls. She thought it was only for terminally ill kids. But then a friend from Champs Heart Camp, who had a non-critical heart condition, got a wish granted and that got her thinking.

She applied and was thrilled to be accepted in the summer of 2019. “Make-A-Wish really helps you think that anything is possible and there are no limits to your dreams. And that was really, really wonderful. I got a piece of paper in the mail that said, ‘You are officially a Wish Kid.’ I got to have my official ‘making a wish’ moment and that was so fun.” Word spread around town, and she even appeared in the local paper with a small write-up.

History, Music, and More

“I love history. I always have. It was really good to be able to go to a place that had so much,” she says about the Maritimes. Strolling past centuries-old churches and historic areas like Halifax’s Pier 21, Alanna and her family took it all in: homemade jam from their guide at Louisburg, a visit to Peggy’s Cove, a stroll at Cavendish beach in Prince Edward Island, a visit to the Anne of Green Gables Museum, and so much more.

One particular highlight was an invitation to the home of professional Cape Breton fiddler Brad Reid, who threw a surprise kitchen party for Alanna with members of the Halifax Symphony Orchestra. She spent the evening playing music with them, branching out from her classical roots and learning more about the rich musical heritage of the area.

So much happened during the trip that Alanna can’t even put her gratitude for Make-A-Wish into words – though that didn’t stop her from trying. “As a 17-year-old, I’m more aware of the financial burden of a trip like that. Knowing that that wasn’t a concern for my family was huge. Being able to do something with them, to just enjoy being together and making wonderful memories, it’s priceless for people that are going through medical challenges. Those challenges and experiences will shape you, and you get to choose how they shape you. They can help you become somebody who is more compassionate and understanding to others.”

Her mother sums it all up. “It ended up being a celebration. We got through this together, and now we got to do this together. It’s emotional healing for all of us.”

Back to Impact Stories