Friends, family, and complete strangers have raised more than enough money to send a four-year-old girl whose leukemia is in remission to the Magic Kingdom after her father denied the child a Make-A-Wish-funded trip to the Orlando theme park because she wasn’t “sick enough.”
The story of McKenna May, who was diagnosed with leukemia as a two-year-old but prevented from visiting Disney World by a seemingly bitter father ricocheted across the nation this week, receiving coverage in national media outlets ranging from Gawker to Business Insider.
When the story first ran in the Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune, it was reported that the child’s mother and grandmother had decided to try to raise money for an alternate trip; the four-year-old had been talking about visiting the theme park for months.
The women placed collection jars around their small Ohio town in an attempt to raise the $3,500 they thought they would need if they drove from Ohio to Florida. The task seemed Sisyphean, and on Monday, the local paper reported the women were “still far” from their financial goal.
But then they moved online, and that was when the donations came pouring in. The family created a page called “Disney Wish” on gofundme.com and in the short span of a few days, 238 donations totaling $12,696 made their way to the site as of Friday afternoon EST.
“Looking at the figure above, simply takes my breath away,” Lori Helppie, the child’s grandmother, wrote on the site. “Our family thanks you from the bottom of our hearts.”
Most donations came in $5, $10, or $20 denominations, but a few gave even more.
One anonymous donor contributed $500 and left no note, while another listed as “Someone special” gave $1,000 without so much as a word.
Those who did leave notes seemed to connect with May’s story, even if they didn’t know her.
“As an adult going through chemotherapy myself I was very touched by McKenna’s story and had to donate something even though you have exceeded your goal,” Jeff Rubin wrote with his gift. “Take some of the extra money to make her trip as special as possible. Have a wonderful time.”
Rubin’s lack of concern that the family had exceeded its goal was echoed throughout the page.
“If there are funds left over, I hope they can help defray the costs of having a very ill child. We’ve experienced childhood illness in our family, and my heart goes out to you,” the donors listed as Michelle and Stephen Farris commented.
But the generosity didn’t end there. Numerous Disney employees and insiders reached out to the Daily News in an attempt to offer the leukemia survivor in-kind donations for the trip.
James Grosso, general manager of the Hilton Orlando hotel inside the Disney World Resort, contacted the Daily News after reading Thursday’s story to offer the family five free nights’ stay.
“I could not imagine what this little girl has been through at such a young age,” Grosso said. “If this very small token of a weeklong stay at our hotel can bring smiles to that girl’s face after all she has been through, that was my goal and motivation, that she gets to see what was promised to her, Disney World and all it has to offer.”
The Daily News has forwarded Grosso’s message on to the family.
- Father Denies Little Girls Make a Wish Disney World Dream (chipandco.com)
- Make-a-Wish rules let dad block kid’s Disney trip (foxnews.com)