Amanda Horsley, a Mascoutah teen who loves pandas, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis in 2015.
St. Louis Children’s Hospital referred Amanda to Make-A-Wish in order to lift her spirits while she struggled with the illness. The organization fulfilled a dream for Amanda, sending her to China — the only place in the world where the cuddly and lovable giant pandas live outside captivity.
Make-A-Wish Illinois is an organization dedicated to fulfilling once-in-a-lifetime wishes for children who have life-threatening illnesses.
Amanda’s father, Gary Horsley, in a press release, “Amanda has always loved pandas. She wants to work as a wildlife biologist in the future.”
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Make-A-Wish sent Amanda and her family to China for two days. Amanda was able to see and interact with the endangered bears. According to her father, the trip took Amanda’s mind off of “all she endures on a day-to-day basis”.
Gary described the chance to be with pandas as “a dream come true” for his daughter.
“When she started to cry from touching the panda — well, to me, that is when words fail,” Gary said.
Amanda also had the chance to explore the Great Wall of China and Chengdu, the capital of China’s Sichuan province, while on the trip. She learned about the area’s culture and history.
“Seeing how happy she was all the time was amazing. Especially when she got to feed the pandas, I have never seen her smile so much.” Gary said. He described the trip as “a blessing”.
According to Make-A-Wish, research shows children who have wishes granted can build emotional and physical strength needed to fight illnesses.
Since 1985, Make-A-Wish Illinois has granted more than 14,000 wishes for children. To recommend a child or learn more, go online to illinois.wish.org/refer or call 800-978-9474.