Jasmine Munoz could have met Mickey Mouse at Disneyland, gone to a beach or taken a cruise, but the 12-year-old leukemia survivor would rather see the Vatican and meet Pope Francis.
Thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a nonprofit organisation dedicated to granting the wishes of children with serious diseases, Jasmine's dream will come true. She and her family will travel to Rome on Friday for a week.
After Jasmine entered the hospital, a social worker told the family about the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Jasmine said she wanted to see Rome and the Vatican. Everyone was surprised by the choice.
'I was given a book about Italy and fell in love with that country,' she said. 'I want to know the Pope because at this moment, he is the representative of Jesus on earth. I will ask him about his life, how he lives.'
Jasmine added: 'I chose Rome because I like Europe - the language, the food, the churches and the history.' And although it was not possible to obtain a private audience with the Pope, Jasmine will be present at a public audience.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions.
The process starts with a wish referral. Referrals come from parents, doctors, social workers and others who know about a child living with medical problems, said Jen Wilson, marketing director at the Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area chapter. Last year, the chapter received 413 referrals, and 262 of them were granted.
The most common wish is a trip to Disneyland, Disney World or a Disney cruise. The last child to wish for a meeting with the Pope was in 2010. And that child did get to meet the Pope.
Make-A-Wish picks up all the costs of someone's wish. If that wish involves travel costs like transportation and accommodations, Make-A-Wish gets by with the help of many donors. In addition to financial contributions from individuals, corporations, clubs and other groups, in-kind contributions of goods or services play a big role.
Jasmine was diagnosed with leukemia in May 2011. What started as a stomachache ended with the news she had cancer of the blood.
Photo: The Munoz family at their home in Oakley, California. From left: Isabela, Normal, Jasmine, Ignacio and Camila
FULL STORY 12-year-old's wish to go to Vatican, see Pope Francis to come true (NCR)