Magic of donors may make Disney wishes come true
Written by JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN Sentinel County Editor
Thursday, 19 July 2012 09:44
In her quest to see Cinderella, McKenna May has encountered many fairy godmothers ... and godfathers.
|Whitney Hughs and her daughter McKenna May. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
When the 4-year-old's story ran Tuesday in the Sentinel-Tribune, collections jars had been placed around Wood County to try to get the Haskins girl to her dream Disney World vacation.
McKenna's story, however, took flight when it was picked up by Associated Press, Yahoo.com and Huffington Post website. The tale tugged at the heartstrings of people nationwide, who wanted to help the cancer survivor get to Disney.
According to McKenna's mom, Whitney Hughes, a fund set up at Fifth Third Bank in Bowling Green generated more than 120 phone calls Wednesday.
At the Sentinel-Tribune, emails and calls came from Washington, D.C., New York, California, Louisiana, Nebraska and even Afghanistan, from people moved to help McKenna.
All the attention caught Hughes by surprise.
"I thought it would travel by word of mouth," once the collection jars were put in local businesses. But she never imagined the story would go viral and she would get calls from donors as far away as Belgium.
McKenna is unaware of the interest stirred by her plight.
"We told her we were raising money, but she doesn't know how," Hughes said.
McKenna, who battled leukemia for two years, had been granted a Disney trip by Make-A-Wish. However, her father, William May of Toledo, who had just been granted visitation earlier this year, refused to sign paperwork authorizing the trip. Make-A-Wish requires both parents to sign off on wishes.
May said Make-A-Wish should only grant the wishes of children who are dying - and his daughter had her final treatment in June.
In an effort to get McKenna to Disney somehow, her mother and grandmother put out the collection jars. Money was coming in slowly, until the story went viral.
It is unknown how much money has been raised so far, though a fund set up at www.gofundme.com has already netted $1,900.
Some readers have offered small sums, while others have offered assistance to McKenna's family, such as a free week at a luxury home located near Disney, and free vacation planning services.
May's comments not only got people to open their wallets, but also stirred the ire of many readers.
Following are some of the comments emailed from afar to the Sentinel-Tribune:
• A soldier in Afghanistan offered a $650 donation. "I know that is seems like an arbitrary number, but it is the amount that I had set aside to take a vacation with a loved one ... but life had other plans for us, sadly. This seems like a good way to honor that."
• A mother in North Carolina wanted to send photographs and a note to McKenna from her own 13-year-old who survived leukemia. "My daughter got a trip to Disney from Make-A-Wish after she completed 3.5 years of chemo. It was a well deserved trip and she will always have those memories."
• "I am sufficiently disappointed by the actions of her father that I would like to contribute to her trip to Florida," said a reader from Palm Springs, Calif.
• "After reading this story, my heart is broken," said a reader from Maine. She suggested the family look into a group called The Dream Factory that helps with children's wishes.
• A reader from Houston, Texas, was moved to make a sizeable donation. "Who can I send the $3,500 check to?"
• The owner of four "luxury properties" near Disney World offered to donate a week at a home to McKenna's family. "My son Andrew is 8 years old. He has been battling brain tumors since he was 1 1/2 years old," he wrote. "I fully understand what it is like to be a parent of a sick child."
• "I'm a 45-year-old cancer survivor, and I have an idea what that little girl went through to be 'free and clear' of cancer ... and frankly, it sucks. Her father should be ashamed of himself," another donor wrote.
Anyone wanting to donate may send checks to Fifth Third Bank, 275 S. Main St., Bowling Green, OH, 43402 or make contributions online at www.gofundme.com, searching for "Disney Wish."
McKenna's mom can be contacted at