Volunteers make wish come true for child with leukemia

PASCO -- She's tiny, weighing in at just 37 pounds, but the love Enecia Campos has to share is mighty.

Enecia is the daughter of Able and Elizabeth Campos of Pasco. She was an imaginative, strong-willed and exuberant child when she celebrated her third birthday last year on Nov. 1. But less than two months later she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

"We were devastated," her mother said. "As parents you never imagine your children will get a disease that threatens their life."

Enecia spent a month at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane undergoing chemotherapy. She still takes medicines at home and has monthly treatments in Spokane.

"The chemo was hard on her and so was losing her hair," said her mother.

Enecia no longer was exuberant yet her imagination was as strong as ever. She and her mom spent a lot of time watching children's videos, especially Alice in Wonderland.

"She loves that one," Elizabeth said. "She told me she wanted to see where Alice lived."

Shortly after returning from their long stay in Spokane, Elizabeth contacted Wishing Star Foundation, which matches up volunteers with the families of seriously ill children. The volunteers, called wish conductors, do their best to fulfill the child's wishes.

When the foundation matched Eric and Carin Jones of Kennewick up with the Campos family, it was easy for all the adults involved to agree a glimpse of Wonderland was what Enecia needed.

"It was so neat the first time we met, she totally came into our hearts," said Carin Jones. "I had not thought I could love someone else's child as much as I truly love her. God definitely placed us with her family for a reason."

"When you see a child, especially at 3 years, battling something like leukemia, making it through and fighting through it, it's amazing," Eric Jones said.

The couple began contacting friends and strangers, putting together a magical Wonderland day for the girl.

Nanci and Justin Kohler, owners of Promise Garden in Pasco, a wedding venue, donated their facility. Members of the Academy of Children's Theatre in Richland volunteered to become Alice, the Mad Hatter and other inhabitants of Wonderland. Dani Smart of Dani Smart Design & Photography in Richland agreed to document the special day. In all, almost 50 volunteers turned the Kohler's garden into a fantasyland for a day.

"I've seen some extravagant wishes granted but the Joneses drew on so many people and were so creative, it was awesome," said Paula Norkgaarden, executive director of Wishing Star in Spokane. Her region covers Eastern and Central Washington and all Idaho.

Enecia's special day was Aug. 28 and the timing was perfect, said her mother. The girl had had a rough summer, the chemo was hard on her and she was just not her usual sunny, happy self.

"The day brought Enecia out of her depression and she's happy again. She's more back to normal, more adventurous," Elizabeth said.

Since then the two families have kept in contact, something they plan to continue into the future.

"She's touched our lives so much that we want to always know how she's doing. Is she alright," Eric said. "We plan on this being a lifelong thing, not just one day."

"That's really what Wishing Star is all about is strengthening the family. We're far more than granting wishes," said Norkgaarden.

"We hope our volunteers and the families they help establish long lasting relationships. Families these days often do not have a lot of support," she said. "We want them to be side by side with the family and care for them for years."