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Make-A-Wish grants 4-year-old Madawaska girl trip to Disney World

MADAWASKA, Maine — Supporters of the Maine chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation gathered with friends and relatives of 4-year-old Justine Chenard Saturday to tell the youngster born with a heart defect that she would be going to Disney World the following week with her family.

Justine Chenard, 4, of Madawaska smiles Saturday while dressed as a princess after learning that the Maine chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation is sending her to Disney World. (Morgan Mitchell)

Justine was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a birth defect that affects blood flow to the heart, and she has had three surgeries thus far. Despite her difficult start in life, Justine remains positive and is a huge fan of Disney princesses, particularly Elsa from the movie “Frozen.”

After Wish Granter Marilyn Carey told Justine the news that she would have her wish granted, Helen Fortin, owner of the Chez Helen restaurant where the wish reveal party was held, presented the youngster with a tiara and a pair of blue princess gloves just like Elsa. Justine put them on and began to sing “Let it Go.”

Through donations from supporters, the non-profit Make-A-Wish Foundation arranges to provide experiences, described as “wishes,” to children diagnosed with critical illnesses. Make-A-Wish Maine in this instance arranged for the trip to Disney World and to give Justine a Princess Makeover at the Bippity Boppity Boutique as a special event for her fifth birthday. Justine and her parents, Kaylee Pyles and Matthieu Chenard, her little brother, and her grandmother will have passes to the Disney parks as well as to Universal Studios and Seaworld during their trip to Orlando, Florida.  

As the wish granter, Carey acted as a liaison between the family and the foundation to grant the wish and plan the trip.

Carey said she has been working with the foundation granting wishes for almost 15 years.

“When I moved back to Maine, I had the opportunity to take the wish granter training, and have found being a wish granter one of the most rewarding and gratifying volunteer opportunities I have had in my life,” she said.

This wish is the sixteenth that Carey has worked on to grant.

“Justine is very outgoing, talkative and a delight,” Carey said. “She is a heart melter.”

Pyles and Chenard found out about three months ago that Make-A-Wish was going to grant their daughter’s wish.

“I’m overwhelmed and excited for her,” Pyles said.

Pyles said that November marked one year since Justine’s last open-heart surgery, and the news of her wish granting couldn’t have come at a better time.

“I am extremely appreciative for what they’ve done,” Chenard said. “It’s been a very rough battle. There were several times where she might not be here, but she’s persevered and made it this far, and I’m very excited that they’ve been able to grant this wish for her.”

Without the surgeries and treatment, the birth defect would have been fatal. With the treatment, many children survive, though most will still have complications later in life. Pyles said that Justine and the family have been through tough times, but that Justine is finally through the major hurdles.

Chenard thanked the medical staff and emergency services personnel who have worked with Justine, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and anyone who donates to the organization.

Justine said she was really excited to be going to Disney World and when asked what she is going to do there, she replied, “Everything.”

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