Thursday, May 28, 2009

STI: 'I wish to be an adult'

May 25, 2009

Girl, 7: If I have only one wish...

'I wish to be an adult'

Foundation makes dream come true for Pri 1 pupil battling brain tumour

By Lim Jun Yi 


WHEN granted one wish, most children will ask for games, laptops or other more practical or fun items.


But Sarah Ooi, aged seven and suffering from a brain tumour for the past six years, simply wanted to be an adult for a day.


So the Make-A-Wish Foundation made the young would-be architect's dream come true.


After a hard morning's 'work' with architectural firm HOK, where she built a model of the Burj Al Arab, a well-known hotel in Dubai that her family had visited, Sarah treated her parents to lunch at the Marina Mandarin Hotel.


The Primary1 pupil even had her own business cards, made specially for her, which she proudly gave out to friends and family.


The foundation fulfils the wishes of children suffering from life-threatening illnesses.


Sarah, the elder of two daughters of a housewife and a businessman, was diagnosed with a brain tumour when she was just one year old.


But that has not stopped her having big ambitions.


'I want to be an adult so I can be an architect and do things like making coffee, clubbing and staying up late,' said the cheerful CHIJ Kellock pupil, who has had three tumours removed in three operations. Her last operation was in February and her cancer is now in remission.


Last Sunday, she got to do all she wanted - and more.


Her morning started with tutorials on the art of applying make-up and dressing appropriately for work. She also learnt how to present her name cards to 'fellow adults'.


Though normally not supposed to handle hot water at home, she was allowed to make hot coffee and tea, this time for her parents, with a little help from foundation representatives.


Sarah earned a star for each of the nine activities on her 'passport to adulthood'.


To cap a perfect day, she rode in a red Ferrari to an exclusive party at Harry's Bar at Boat Quay.


Family and friends were invited and she stayed up till midnight, a good three hours past her usual bedtime. Sarah toasted her guests with her favourite non-alcoholic cocktail, a Blue Lagoon, and was later presented with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Adulthood certificate by the foundation.


'Hopefully, when we're old and grey, she'll still be an architect,' said her mother, Madam Evelyn Pattiselanno, 44.


Sarah's doctor, Dr Keith Goh, neurosurgeon and chairman of the board of directors of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, described his patient as sensitive and highly intelligent.


'She told me that she wants to be an adult so that her parents won't worry about her. They worry about too many things, she said.'


Miss Tho Pei Leng, director of programme services with the foundation, said volunteers are especially excited by unique requests as 'there is so much room for them to be creative'.


The children's desires are varied, from wanting to be a published author or a Japanese chef, to building sandcastles on the beach or playing with kittens for a day.


To tailor a day to the specific desires of each child, teams from the foundation make home visits to their beneficiaries to learn more about their interests.


The organisation works with 75 volunteer wish-granters, and receives money for its operations from donors and through its two fund-raising events - its gala dinner and a golf tournament. Its 'Adopt A Wish' system also allows anyone to sponsor a wish day.

'It just makes sense to do anything in our capacity to put a smile on their faces and bring some joy to their lives, even for one day,' said Miss Tho.

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