Being Bella Brave

As we go through our daily lives, it’s easy to get caught up in and stressed about the little things. When we’re having a bad day, we tend to overlook all the good things that we take for granted – but many children in Saskatchewan do not have that luxury. Whether they suffer from chronic diseases, injuries, or other forms of disability, there are hundreds of children in the province with simple wishes for a more comfortable life.

Luckily, organizations like Make-a-Wish Canada are here to help.  On a mission “to create life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses”, this non-profit organization utilizes dedicated volunteers, staff, and fundraising efforts across the country, and has granted more than 35,000 wishes since 1983. Organized into provincial chapters, their message is one of hope and optimism, and when families are going through difficult times, they provide a light in the darkness.

This was the case for a wish granted in spring 2021, for 7-year-old Bella Thomson of Swift Current. She was born with cartilage-hair hypoplasia (CHH), a bone-growth disease characterized by short stature and skeletal abnormalities. Complications from this have also caused her to suffer from Hirschsprung disease, a gastrointestinal disorder, and severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) – and as a result, Bella has already had more than 20 surgeries and spent over 800 days of her life in the hospital. But over the past year, her mother Kyla has shared Bella’s journey with the world on TikTok, garnering millions of followers and endless positive response.

In April 2021, Bella’s wish was granted, providing her with a large custom-built princess playhouse castle. This two-part playhouse – complete with a slide, walkways, colourful decorations, flowerpots, a treasure chest, and much more – is a place for Bella to simply be a kid, and forget the stress and pain caused by her ongoing medical issues. It serves as an inspiring story of determination and hope for the millions of people following her online.

“This has given her so much joy that she can have on a daily basis, while waiting for her bowel transplant,” Kyla says. “The way she wished for it, the way she got it, everything leading up to it…it’s a huge blessing to be able to make it happen, because as a parent, you know how scary [each call] can be.”

Bella’s was just one of many wishes fulfilled this year by the Make-a-Wish Foundation in Saskatchewan, which had doubts about its operating ability when COVID-19 shuttered so many fundraising opportunities in 2020. Currently, about 250 kids within the province are waiting for their wishes to be granted, and – with all travel suspended, an average cost around $10,000 per wish, and a blooming deficit thanks to the pandemic – the future of their organization in Saskatchewan could have looked much different if not for the rise in community support.

Now in the third year of partnership, Youth + Us has helped grant approximately 25 wishes in that time for the foundation, which is reapplying for another 3-year term at the end of 2021. In such an uncertain atmosphere, and in doing work that can create such a lifelong impact, reliable financial support is crucial to delivering what is promised – so the ability to count on long-term funding has made the Foundation’s job much easier.

“The support of Youth + Us has been incredible, and we’re so grateful to them,” says Allyson Toye, from Make-a-Wish Saskatchewan. “They have continued to support us through all of this, and it has made such a big difference.” Because of this funding, she says, more wishes have been granted, and more children have felt hope, joy, and support when they need it most.

Kyla can talk about that experience firsthand.

“As a first-time wish parent, I am just blown away now that I understand all the work and effort put in to make this happen. By the builders, the donors, everyone at Make-a-Wish. It’s so much more than just the Wish team, and they need a lot of support to make it happen.”

But it all adds up to something even more meaningful for her daughter, who has been through so much:

“I watch the part of the video where she takes the blindfold off, over and over. It’s pure amazement in her eyes. She knows it’s hers to enjoy, every day…it makes coming home from the hospital more exciting, and even more special.”

Follow Kyla and Bella’s journey on TikTok at @kylact or with the hashtag #BellaBrave

© K+S Potash Canada GP, 2019