When Kabrina Clark stepped into a South Jersey Subaru dealership on Tuesday, she thought she was going to choose a car for her 18th birthday.
She didn’t get a car. Instead, she was greeted by a cheering crowd in the showroom where she was presented with an all-expenses-paid Make-A-Wish trip to Hawaii. She burst into tears as the well-wishers yelled “Happy Wish Day!”
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Escorted by her grandparents, Clark, of Blackwood, was caught by surprise. Her dream trip was in the making for six to nine months.
“I didn’t know anything,” Clark said, wiping tears. “I’m just so thankful.”
Diagnosed with childhood cancer when she was 14, Clark underwent surgery and 44 rounds of chemotherapy. She has completed treatment and hopes her cancer will go into remission.
Every year, about 700 critically ill New Jersey children and about 15,000 nationally are eligible for a wish, said spokesman Michael P. Dominick. They fill out an application, which asks recipients to outline their wish and their reasons for wanting it to come true.
“We don’t limit the child’s wish,” Dominick said.
Make-A-Wish New Jersey and Subaru of Cherry Hill granted Clark’s wish. At Subaru, staff and volunteers wearing colorful leis waved signs at a Hawaii-themed celebration. Clark’s trip costs about $10,000, the average price for a wish, officials said.
Through its annual “Share the Love” campaign that runs through Jan. 3, Subaru has pledged to donate $250 to each customer’s choice of participating charities. Subaru has granted more than 3,000 wishes since 2011.
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“To see her so excited. I almost cried,” said owner Ziad Nashed. “You can’t beat that.”
A hula dancer performed several routines. Clark, a senior at Highland Regional High School, was serenaded with a birthday cake.
Clark beamed as she listened to her upcoming itinerary. A limousine will transport her and family members to the airport next Tuesday. Planners granted her every request, including a swim with dolphins.
The whirlwind trip is just what Clark needs, said her grandmother, Deziree Madden. Despite facing a life-threatening diagnosis, the teen remained upbeat, even when her hair fell out from the chemo treatments, she said.
“You just have to have a strong mind. You just have to keep pushing and don’t give up,” said Clark. “I just lived every day like it was my last.”