LaBarge going on Make-A-Wish cruise

Little Ava LaBarge of Bridgton just celebrated her 5th birthday, and soon she and her family will travel on a long-dreamt of journey they have been planning

DISNEY CRUISE, HERE SHE COMES — Make-A-Wish child Ava LaBarge, 5, of Bridgton departs on a Disney Cruise with her family in less than two weeks!

for over a year.

Monday evening, Ava and her family were the guests of honor at a send-off party held Black Horse Tavern, just days before they embark on a Disney Cruise provided by the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Maine.

Ava lives with a blood vessel disorder in her lungs called Pulmonary Hypertension. Although born with this life-threatening condition, Ava was not officially diagnosed until she was a year old. Since then, she has been given serious medical treatment to help her live the best that she can with such a rare and dangerous illness.

To administer her medicine, Ava has a central IV line that goes directly from a backpack to her body.

“She’s had it for the past four years,” said Mitzi LaBarge, Ava’s mother. “She carries it around everywhere, hugs it, knows no different.” Mitzi mixes the medicine for her daughter’s backpack and feels the pressure and responsibility of her child’s healthcare everyday.

“It is exhausting at times, but we’ve built a routine that we are all comfortable with. The stressful part is that I always have to be ready to rush to Boston if anything goes wrong.”

Because Ava was born with this condition, her mother has made numerous trips to the doctors and on one of those she heard of Make-A-Wish Foundation of Maine. She knew that Ava would qualify for a wish when she reached two and a half years old, however, the tiny blonde girl was too fragile, at that point, so her mother waited a year.

When Ava was three, her Mom called the Maine chapter of Make-A-Wish. After being qualified by the Foundation’s medical advisory board and her doctor, Ava was told she could have a wish.

“We picked out the wish to go on a Disney cruise together,” said Mitzi. “We are looking forward to the wild and crazy time that it will be. For Ava, the louder the better!”

In less than two weeks, she and her family will head south for a trip of a lifetime.

Before the family leaves for Ava’s wish, however, her volunteer Wish Granters (Shay Lattari and Tracey Hansen) organized a send-off party at the Black Horse Tavern on November 29. This was a chance for her family and friends to celebrate the granting of her wish and for everyone to wish her bon voyage.

“Ava gets up every day with a smile,” said her mom. “We’ve looked forward to this moment for over a year, and we can’t wait to be ‘stuck together’ on the boat as a family.”

The Make-A-Wish Foundation grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy. The Maine Chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation opened in 1992. As of March 2010, we have granted over 900 wishes. This year, the Foundation expects to grant the greatest wish of over 75 seriously ill Maine children, which is an average of one wish every five days. The average cost of a wish is $6,000. All money raised in Maine stays in Maine. Of the money donated, 77% goes towards program expenses (granting wishes), which is 12% more than the minimum required of non-profits by the Better Business Bureau. All wish expenses are fully covered by the Foundation. The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Maine is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, and all contributions are tax deductible.

The Maine chapter has over 200 volunteers statewide, and a staff of six. Our offices are located at 87 Elm Street, in Camden, and 477 Congress Street, Suite 7W, in Portland. For more information about the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Maine, visit www.maine.wish.org and discover how you can share the power of a wish®.

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