Brinkley was a seemingly healthy little girl before she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) after experiencing pain in her joints and a lack of energy. Overall, it was evident she was not acting her normal 12-year-old self.
Brinkley was taken to the doctor where they believed things would look up; however, the issues only intensified. After returning for x-rays and blood work, it was determined that Brinkley was fighting something much more severe and the family was told to go straight to the hospital.
The news of a critical illness is nothing you can prepare for; however, the blow of the diagnosis was accompanied by the hope of a wish. At the time of her diagnosis, the doctor told Brinkley she would qualify for a wish.
“We were learning a lot of information and we knew her treatment would require nearly two-and-a-half-years of intense chemotherapy. As you can imagine, it was overwhelming, but one of the things I remember them saying was that Brinkley would qualify to receive a wish. So, it was always in the back of our minds as we were going through treatment,” said Lori, Brinkley’s mom.
Finally, when Brinkley was just a few months out from finishing treatment, her social worker referred her, and the wish process began unfolding.
As Brinkley started thinking of ideas for her wish, one idea she had was to go to Hawaii – the birthplace of one of her heroes, Bethany Hamilton. Bethany Hamilton is a professional surfer who survived a 2003 shark attack who tragically lost her left arm but ultimately returned to surfing. Inspired by Bethany’s courage and faith, Soul Surfer became Brinkley’s favorite movie. “She seemed like such a genuine person,” said Brinkley.
When Brinkley found out the Bethany Hamilton Surf Camp takes place in Hawaii, everything began falling into place as her one-true wish was determined: I wish to go to the Bethany Hamilton Surf Camp.
In October of 2018, Brinkley and her family found out her wish would be coming true.
A few short months later - she, her parents, and her older siblings boarded a plane for Hawaii. The moment they had been yearning for during Brinkley’s two-and-a-half-year chemotherapy regime was finally coming to fruition.
“To be able to step out of that and into a place like Hawaii or wherever that might be, just gives you an opportunity to refresh and catch your breath.”
Upon arrival, Brinkley’s family was greeted by Make-A-Wish® Hawaii representatives and were given leis and information on what was to come. The first evening they met three other wish families who were also there for the surf camp.
The days that followed included two days of surf camp, one-on-one time with Bethany, meeting her family, receiving support from the locals, watching Bethany’s new movie that hasn’t been released yet, surfing with Bethany and a ton of quality family time for Brinkley and her family.
According to Lori, spending that quality time together, after everything Brinkley went through, was the highlight of the wish, followed by a monumental moment on the water.
“Watching those four girls as they were surfing and would come in on those waves, the big smiles on their faces and watching them enjoy the moment that they had anticipated for so long… I will never forget it.”
Brinkley and the other girls learned to surf at Hanalei Bay, the same place Bethany learned to surf all those years ago. Brinkley’s highlight of the wish trip was, of course, surfing with Bethany. When asked if she was now a professional, Brinkley laughed. “No… no. But it was easier than I thought.”
Brinkley is now 15-years-old and cancer free. She rang the bell in December, signaling the end of her treatment, and the hopeful beginning of her new normalcy awaiting her.
“‘Wish’ is more than just a word. It’s hard to even estimate what the value of a wish is. Families with critically ill children go through so much and to be able to do something together that they look forward to for so long, you can hardly put words to the power of a wish.”
Watch the wish experience unfold here.