Penelope grew up listening to many stories that her mom, Lori, would read to her at home or at the hospital where the little girl received treatment for leukemia. Among the many wonderful stories she heard, the ones that Penelope loved most were stories of Madeline, the little Parisian girl in the children’s book series entitled Madeline. After receiving a bone marrow transplant, Penelope had to remain at home and could not receive visitors while her immune system strengthened. During this time, the imaginative 6-year-old, her mom, Lori, dad, Matt, and grandmother would dress up and have Madeline-style tea parties.
When Make-A-Wish® volunteers asked Penelope about her most heartfelt wish she told them without hesitation that she would like to go to Paris to have a tea-party with Madeline. Lori and Matt were not sure if the long journey might be too much for their daughter, but Penelope was unwavering in her wish choice. Lori realized that Penelope’s wish was in many ways quite fitting for her daughter, whom she describes as sweet and creative, and as determined, feisty and charmingly mischievous as her favorite character, Madeline.
Little Penelope was very happy when she was told that Make-A-Wish would send her, along with her parents and younger brother to Paris to meet Madeline. She and her parents had no idea, though, how special she was going to be made to feel on the trip. As neighbors looked on, a limousine pulled up at her home to take the little star and her family to the airport. Airline representatives escorted the family to a special lounge where they were treated to food and drinks, and before they made their way onto the airplane, the crew introduced and welcomed Penelope over the loud speaker.
Make-A-Wish had arranged for actors to play the part of Madeline and other characters in the books. “It was the most spectacular meeting,” Lori tells us excitedly. Penelope was delighted to meet the hero of her favorite books. “It was all so real. I even questioned whether it was a real orphanage. Madeline brought a book for Penelope, read it to her, and sang French songs to her,” Lori says. “Penelope was very excited,” she goes on and explains that for her little daughter who she says “is in the age of fantasy and make believe,” it seemed so normal to have tea with Madeline.
Lori reveals that for the family Penelope’s wish trip represented “healing and the next phase. We went to playgrounds and watched the kids play with others, and went to restaurants. We ate very good food. It was like starting a new chapter.” She adds that “for so long, Penelope wanted to do the things that so many other kids do, including having a dog, but she couldn’t. In some ways she realizes that she is getting better and the trip was a sort of gift.” It is a gift that keeps on giving as Penelope has many memories of her trip to Paris to have tea with Madeline. She can look back and relive these memories whenever she wants.
Wish-granting volunteers: Christine Cookman & Keesha McCray
Wish story writer: Kamlita Reddy