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Published: Wednesday, 10/5/2005

Swanton: 12-year-old is ambassador for Make-A-Wish

SWANTON - A 12-year-old Swanton girl, who personifies hope and excitement for the future, is serving this week as an ambassador from northwest Ohio during the 25th anniversary celebration of the Make-A-Wish Foundation at Disneyland Resort.

Leilani Turk, who went with her family last year to Hawaii as her wish, is one of only 75 "wish kids" from around the world selected to serve as an ambassador to the celebration in Anaheim, Calif.

She is representing the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Northwest Ohio.

The three-day celebration began yesterday and ends Friday. Today marks the big ceremony for the 25th anniversary of the foundation, said Jay Salvage, executive director of the northwest Ohio chapter.

Leilani is described as an inspiration to all children confronting life-threatening medical conditions.

"She typifies the hope, the excitement for the future," he said.

When Leilani, who has been treated for Hodgkins Lymphoma, was given the opportunity to select a wish, she chose a visit to Hawaii.

"It meant a lot. I never thought I would see Hawaii. My name comes from there and it was great to visit the place I am named after."

She is the daughter of Linda and Ken Turk. Leilani's brother Zachary has written and illustrated a book about her, Mr. Salvage said.

Although she decided to go to Hawaii, most "wish kids" want to go to a Disney theme park for their wish.

A Disney park visit to Florida remains the foundation's most requested wish for children with life-threatening medical conditions.

Make-A-Wish Foundation's mission is to grant wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength, and joy.

The foundation was founded in 1980 after a a young boy named Chris Grecius realized his wish to become a police officer.

Mr. Salvage, who is in Anaheim for the Make-A-Wish national conference this week, said the northwest Ohio chapter was founded in 1984, and it has granted more than 850 wishes.

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