“Disney is waiting for me!”
The first visit to Tokyo Disney Resort is always magical, but for 19-year-old Make-A-Wish kid Rei Sayama, whose wish to visit Tokyo Disney Resort just came true, it meant so much more.
When Rei was eight years old, she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a type of cancer that affects blood and bone marrow. Her condition was serious, and she needed a constant supply of oxygen. Through treatments, Rei watched Disney cartoons to entertain herself, her favorites were “Lilo and Stitch,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Phineas and Ferb,” and “Kim Possible.” Rei’s doctor recommended she receive a wish from Make-A-Wish Japan, and Rei knew at once what it would be: a family trip to Tokyo Disney Resort.
However, the timing of her wish trip was just before Rei’s second bone marrow transplant, which was a high-risk operation, and the family felt as though “we were on a tightrope as the wrong treatment could be life-threatening.” Unfortunately, her lungs deteriorated due to complications, and she needed a constant oxygen supply for two years. Her physical strength weakened to the point where she could not walk by herself, but despite these setbacks, Rei encouraged herself by reminding herself that “Disney is waiting for me!”
The family lost count of the many times they encouraged each other through the painful treatments with the promise that Rei’s wish to visit Tokyo Disney Resort would come true. As years went by, for every Christmas and birthday spent in the hospital room, Make-A-Wish Japan sent gifts to Rei and her family as encouragement: her wish was waiting for her.
Finally, Rei received a miraculous lung transplant, and no longer needs oxygen supplies or a wheelchair. The rehabilitation process was long and tedious, but her goal set with the physical therapist was “to be able to go to Tokyo Disney Resort” and walk around all day.
And now, Rei’s trip finally came true, just in time for Tokyo Disney Resort’s 40th anniversary celebration and World Wish Day! This was the first trip to Tokyo Disney Resort for Rei, her older sister and father, and Rei received the VIP experience.
I had the honor of greeting Rei for her special day, along with Managing Director of Walt Disney Attractions Japan and Walt Disney Imagineering Japan George Gross, and special guests Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse!
“It was my great pleasure to welcome Rei-san today,” George shared. “I would like to express my gratitude and admiration to Rei-san, thanks to her determination to visit Tokyo Disney Resort, she made her wish come true.”
For more than 40 years, Disney and Make-A-Wish have worked together to deliver joy when it is needed most to wish kids and their families around the world. Tokyo Disney Resort has worked with Make-A-Wish Japan since 2012, and together we have granted 636 magical wishes. And today was no exception! It was so heartwarming to meet Rei and hear about her strength through the long journey, and I’m so grateful to have been a part of this special day for Rei and her family.
To learn more about how Disney and Make-A-Wish create magical wishes together, visit worldwish.org/disney.