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Tough choice.

Joseph Anderson, a 10-year-old boy from Elmwood, Nebraska, was born with spina bifida, a birth defect allowing the spinal cord to protrude through an opening in the bones. Three years ago, Joseph and his parents, Vince and Julie Anderson, were visited by two "wish granters" from the Make-A-Wish foundation. Though the foundation originally granted wishes only to terminally ill children, several years back it changed its rules to include children whose illnesses were life-threatening but not necessarily terminal.

After thinking about an endless possibility of wishes, Joseph was overwhelmed. "He pondered that for a minute and then told them that he was too young to make that decision right now," his mother, Julie, told the Ashland Gazette (Nebraska). "[We told them] they should come back when he was older."

Come back they did, and Joseph eventually decided he would like to go to Disney World. Before leaving, however, the "wish granters" arranged for a surprise party for Joe at Flying Wheels Fun Center, a skating rink in Elmwood owned by his family, secretly inviting all of his friends from the fourth grade at his elementary school.

Five days later, on May 10, Joe and his family were picked up and driven to Eppley Airfield in Omaha by a Hummer stretch limousine. Joe and his sister Millie were both introduced to the crew on the plane, given a tour of the cockpit, and on the first leg of the flight to Dallas, they were seated in first class.

When the Anderson family arrived in Orlando, they were met by a representative of Give Kids the World Village, an organization established specifically to provide places for terminally ill or handicapped children to stay, and to treat them to enjoyable activities.

According to Joe's mother, however, the things he seemed to enjoy most about Florida were the small lizards resembling the GEICO gecko that run almost everywhere. "There was no need for him to go to Disney World.... He would have been perfectly happy chasing lizards all day long," said Mrs. Anderson.

The experience meant much more to the Andersons than visiting Disney World, Sea World, Universal Studios, and even chasing the lizards, however. As Mrs. Anderson told the Gazette: "To see everyone open their hearts and their lives to complete strangers made an impression on us and many of the other families we met. Wishes and dreams really do come true thanks to the kindness of people. This was a trip of a lifetime that was entirely paid for by the generosity of others. I think if we had paid a million dollars for the trip we would not have had the same experience."
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Author:Mass, Warren
Publication:The New American
Date:Sep 17, 2007
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