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Izzie's Wild Wish

  • Izzie and her family at Safari Park, part of the San Diego Zoo.

  • Izzie (center) and her sisters Adeline (left) and Elizabeth impersonate big cats!

  • Izzie tries her hand at feeding animals.

  • Izzie (right) and her sister take in an up-close view of the lions at Safari Park.

  • Izzie and her sister pet a porcupine

  • Izzie (left) and her sister learn about anteaters.

  • Izzie (right) and Adeline share a gleeful ride!

“ The family time that Izzie's wish provided us was very special. ”

- Wish parents Chris and Elissa

Izzie loves to curl up in bed to read Big Cats. At five years old, she is proud to know the differences between a leopard, a jaguar, and a cheetah. Born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, Izzie's daydreams carry her to an outdoor world full of the animals that peak her curiosity, far from the medical environment she knows all too well.

Izzie's first two years of life included three major heart surgeries. "Izzie was very fragile. Her circulation wasn't stable until the second surgery, so she had very little energy for feeding and was slow to gain the weight needed for each surgery," recall her parents, Chris and Elissa. 

Last year, Izzie's parents came across a Make-A-Wish® Massachusetts and Rhode Island information table at a local congenital heart defect awareness walk and realized their daughter was eligible for a wish. "Although she is strong for a child with her diagnosis and doesn't understand the impact of her condition, we know we're very lucky. They say 25% of children with her condition don't make it to age five. We're very aware that her health status could change quickly. That's why we thought now was the perfect time for her wish."

Izzie's big cat daydreams became a reality when her wish to go to the San Diego Zoo was granted! She relished her VIP treatment at the famous zoo, including time spent behind-the-scenes at Safari Park. She helped to feed and give gentle pats to a variety of creatures including big cats. She even entered the Tiger Den, where she experienced the sound of a tiger growl!

"The family time that Izzie's wish provided us was very special. As parents it gave us a chance to pause and reflect on where we are and all we've gotten through. We loved watching Izzie's reactions at the zoo and experiencing all the joy alongside her. And for Izzie and her two sisters, it was so important to be doing something together. Izzie is often in the spotlight because of her illness, and her sister Adeline struggles with how to be a big sibling to a sister with health issues. On this trip, Adeline felt special, too. We all did!"  

And in the evenings now, you can find Izzie curled up with her new buddy Tigey, a stuffed tiger given to her by the staff at Safari Park, continuing to dream of a future full of everything she can imagine.

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