Imagine a 4-year-old girl wrestling a six-foot alligator - well, a stuffed alligator that is! This was Caylee’s dream-come-true. The young, spunky, red-headed girl had wished to meet the stars from her favorite television show on Animal Planet, the Gator Boys.
Her mother Emily says that when Caylee was diagnosed with short bowel syndrome at the age of three, all she ever wanted to do was watch episodes of the Gator Boys. “It was the only thing that would calm her down,” Emily recalls. Her extremely rare illness, which only affects 10,000 individuals nationwide, leaves her feeling sick nearly every day. Her mom says that thinking about the highly anticipated wish experience lifted her daughter’s spirits.
On the big day, Caylee, her younger brother, and mother were picked up by a limousine at their home and taken to the airport, where they jetted off to sunny Florida. After checking into their hotel, the family was greeted by a second stretch limousine that took them to meet the cast. Caylee was off on the adventure and experience of a lifetime!
Emily reports, “They acted like they knew each other from day one. As if they had known each other their whole lives.” Emily was happy to watch her daughter meet her favorite character, Paul Bedard. She says that they were “instant buddies”. Paul, and other cast members took the family on a thrilling ride through the Everglades to find gators.
For the next six hours, Caylee and her new best friends traveled by air boat through the Florida waters, rescuing the reptiles and releasing them back into the wild. Emily remembers Caylee’s face lit up the entire time. “She even got to name one of the alligators, and called her, Rosebud,” she says.
Caylee’s fun and adventure didn’t end on that day. While in Florida, the little girl and her family also enjoyed a dinner cruise through Fort Lauderdale, where they were able to see many different varieties of sea animals and critters. “It was unbelievable,” says Emily. “Honestly, I never thought once that she was sick while on the wish. Everybody treated her with such compassion, and it was all about Caylee. Just to see her smile, I will never forget that.”
The family credits the magic of Make-A-Wish for bringing them closer together, and allowing them to forget about the struggles of Caylee’s illness.