“I wish to go tobogganing in Austria”
4 years old, Warwickshire
Four-year-old George lived in Warwickshire with his mum Claire. He had been diagnosed with Batten disease, a rare and fatal form of childhood dementia. Claire was determined to make a 'bucket and spade' list of adventures for him.
As part of that list, George’s wish was granted in June 2018 - to go tobogganing in Austria with his mum, uncle and grandparents!
George was a mini-thrill-seeker and successful campaigner who flew in helicopters and featured on posters in Westminster calling on ministers for greater awareness of his condition. He loved school, getting muddy outdoors, and getting up to mischief!
A year after being diagnosed, Batten disease took away George’s ability to speak, to walk and to feed himself. But Claire described her son as incredibly brave and happy, despite everything he was going through.
Amazing and heart-breaking at the same time
"To say it’s devastated our family is an understatement. I still haven’t found the words to describe how it feels. He is such a brave boy and you can still see the determination in his face, he wants to try everything."
Claire said: "Even though his body is failing him, his mind is still driving him. It’s amazing and heart-breaking at the same time. Because Batten is a rare condition, it’s very difficult for doctors to give us a timeline, but George is not going to get better."
Something completely wild
“We’d been so focused on his medical care that fun family activities didn’t even get a look-in. Then, George’s doctor suggested we talk to Make-A-Wish. He was an adrenaline-junkie by nature and I wanted to gather as many memories with him as possible in our limited time together.
“When the Wish Visitors came to see us at home, we wanted to choose a wish that would encapsulate things George loves – he loves sledging and rollercoasters, so we chose something completely wild: to go tobogganing in the snowy mountains of Austria!
"I didn’t honestly think you’d be able to grant the wish, but we were so excited when our Wishgranter Amy said yes! She’s been amazing – always there to give advice. It’s as if she has been waving a little wand over our family.”
The world at his feet
So off they went on their wish! Once back home, Claire told us: “We had the most amazing trip, and I have a million memories from it. The tobogganing was way better than we could have imagined – the first route was 3.2km long, and it took a full 10 minutes to get down! The second toboggan was much steeper and faster, and the views through the forest and down the mountain on both were incredible. George loved it!"
Most poignantly, as George hadn't spoken for a while, she added: "I recorded a video as we were hurtling down the mountain and I asked George: “Are you having fun?” and he replied: “Yes!”
"For the first time in more than a year my son spoke, and I was delighted. I think it was a result of all of his senses firing at once from the excitement. It was such a magical moment that I will never forget, and the wish brought that out of him.
“We rode in a cable car, saw a spectacular birds of prey show in a beautiful valley, and watched planes fly into the airport from the observation deck. Where we stayed in Austria was so close to the border with Germany and Italy that we were able to take day trips to both countries. We went to the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang castle in Germany and in Italy we ate pasta and Italian gelato. I haven’t seen George enjoy food orally like that in such a long time so we ate a lot of ice cream during the holiday!
How George's wish helped
“The achievement of doing this sort of trip with George was really important to me – we visited three countries in a week and packed in so much adventure and excitement, and to have my parents and brother sharing the experience made it all the more special. It gave me such joy to see George so happy.
"Before his wish, I said that I hoped the trip would make George feel like he had the world at his feet, and there was a moment we captured on film during the tobogganing where you can see his little feet in the foreground, and in the background is this breathtaking view so, yes, his wish delivered on that - he literally had the world at his feet!
“I knew George’s wish was having a positive impact on him, because every time I talked to him or someone else about it, or showed them the footage, he lit up like he remembered it. It was amazing to me that he retained those memories. It lifted us both and helped me, as a mum to a seriously ill child, to get through another chunk of time, another set of appointments and medication and worry."
"Make-A-Wish gives poorly children a moment of escapism from the pain, sadness and challenges that they deal with every day, and that is priceless."
"A child’s wish can seem like the smallest thing but it means so much and really has a huge impact on not only the child but the family too, because a child’s condition deeply affects everyone involved and seeing that child happy again means everything. George’s wish has given our family so many priceless happy memories to share, and they’ll last us forever.
"When George turned five, we went indoor skydiving to celebrate – and we had many more adventures together too. Thank you so much to everyone who supported George’s wish.”
Sponsored donations made towards a child’s wish will go towards their One True Wish. If a child’s wish receives over funding the additional donations will be put towards a similar wish. If a child's wish doesn't reach 100% funding their wish will still take place and general funds will be used.