Child’s wish for Disney trip becomes reality

Published 2:46 pm Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A wish came true at Billingsley School as Zoe McNeal, 8, was granted her wish with a trip to Disney World through Magic Moments on Dec. 19.

McNeal is in the third grade at Billingsley and has experienced her share of adversity at a young age.

She was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis at 16 months old, which is an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

According to Kendra McNeal, Zoe’s mother, she was in a coma for about three weeks and had several brain surgeries as a result.

“We almost lost her,” Kendra McNeal said.

Zoe spent two months at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham as she battled the infection. However, she suffered a brain injury and it damaged her immune system.

“She just has a hard time with stuff now,” Kendra McNeal said.

Kendra McNeal encouraged parents to get their children vaccinated, as a preventative measure.

“She’s strong and brave,” Kendra McNeal said. “She’s been through a lot and she still has several doctor appointments.”

Every four weeks she visits Children’s Hospital to receive IVIG infusions, which is donated blood in the form of medicine to help boost her immune system.

Zoe McNeal hugs Elsa after she found out that her and her family will be going on a trip to Disney World. (Photo by Anthony Richards)

“That’s the only way she can come to school,” McNeal said. “It keeps her from getting so sick and catching everything. She’s protected under that.”

According to Kendra McNeal, only time will tell, but due to the fragile state of Zoe’s immune system, the infusions are most likely going to be necessary for the rest of her life.

Adrian Hughes was on hand as a “magic maker” from Magic Moments to help make Zoe’s wish come true, along with Elsa from Disney’s “Frozen.”

It took place during an assembly in the school’s lunchroom with the entire elementary school in attendance.

The McNeals received word that Zoe’s wish had been officially granted on Nov. 27, which was also the anniversary of her initially getting sick. However, the family had kept the granting of the wish a surprise up until Hughes called Zoe out of the crowd.

Elsa and Zoe stood up on the lunchroom stage and led the rest of her fellow students in the singing of “Let It Go” from “Frozen.”

Magic Moments is an organization based in Birmingham, in which parents of children with terminal illnesses apply for their child’s wish to be granted. Only families in the state of Alabama are eligible.

The wishes are unique to the child and range from Disney trips to meet-and-greets with celebrities or athletes.

“It’s really up to the child,” Hughes said. “It is their wish.”

According to Hughes, she is one of many “magic makers” and about five to 10 children in the state are granted a wish every month.