8-year-old Ryder is an outspoken, confident and high-spirited young lady. She doesn’t let anyone or anything slow her down, including her genetic disorder.
The day that Ryder’s family discovered her medical condition is a day they will surely never forget. “That day was overwhelming and scary. It completely changed my outlook on our future,” explains Kaylee, Ryder’s mom. For a parent, watching their child fight a critical illness can leave them feeling helpless and unsure of what to expect for their child.
Ryder has faced many challenges since birth. From not being able to breathe, eat, walk or talk to overcoming those obstacles hasn’t always been easy. “I have to miss some school and I miss my friends,” says Ryder. And yet even with all those trials and tribulations, she is one of the most vibrant little girls you will ever meet.
So when a family friend whose child has the same condition received a wish, they referred Ryder to Make-A-Wish North Dakota. Not long after being told she was eligible for a wish Ryder figured out what she wanted it to be. Seeing as she loves animals and the show Lion Guard/Lion King, it is no surprise that she wished to go to Animal Kingdom and meet her favorite characters.
Upon arrival at Give Kids the World Village in Florida Ryder discovered that she was named an honorary member of the Lion Guard. “It was a time of joy and happiness for Ryder, where medical problems weren’t the first priority,” Kaylee shares. Ryder had plenty of time to take in all that Animal Kingdom has to offer and she finally got to see the pride lands she loves so much. “They had giraffes and rhinos and every animal there,” according to Ryder!
However, this wish was more than just a warm vacation for Ryder and her family. It was a chance for them to take a break from their everyday realities of fighting a critical illness and instead just enjoy being together. “It is organizations like [Make-A-Wish] that help children see the good in life when surrounded by so much negativity,” says Kaylee of why this experience was so special.
Since returning from her trip Ryder has taken every opportunity to share her story and how Make-A-Wish has impacted her life. She was even interviewed by Miss America 2018, Cara Mund, at the recent Denim and Diamonds event in Jamestown. When asked what her favorite part of her wish trip was she enthusiastically responded, “I could eat ice cream all day, even in my pajamas!” And of course, she loved meeting all her favorites, like Raffiki, too.