'Princess Dessa' first recipient of calendar of wishes

A giant Advent calendar in Abbey Glen Park in downtown Edmonton will feature and grant a wish each day from Dec. 1 to Christmas Eve for a child with a life-threatening medical condition.

Make-A-Wish Northern Alberta has granted Dessa Fitzherbert, 4, her wish to go to Disneyland

The Northern Alberta Make-A-Wish calendar of dreams will grant a wish to a sick kid each day until Christmas. 0:53

"Princess Dessa" made a grand entrance at Abbey Glen Park in downtown Edmonton Thursday as the first child to be granted a wish through a new holiday event by Make-A-Wish Northern Alberta.

Dessa Fitzherbert's wish is to be a princess, so the four-year-old and her family will travel to Disneyland later this month, said Alyson Hodson, vice-president of Make-A-Wish Northern Alberta.

Dessa, who was at the event with her mom Stacey and dad Frankie, has a progressive liver and kidney disease. She is awaiting a liver transplant.
Make-A-Wish Northern Alberta will grant a wish to a child each day from Dec.1-24, said VP Alyson Hodson on Thursday.

Make-A-Wish has built a huge Advent calendar, eight metres by eight metres, in the park at the corner of 102nd Street and Jasper Avenue.

Every day at noon from Dec. 1 through Christmas Eve, one wish will be revealed for a child with a life-threatening medical condition.

"Some of the wishes are just so heartwarming," Hodson said. "Wanting to have a picnic in the park with their friends, to one child who wanted to build a baseball diamond in his town so all the kids could play baseball." 

The wishes will be granted throughout 2017, she said.

"All children are in different circumstances," said Hodson. "There really is proof these children feel better when they have something to look forward to and even after the wish, have something to hang on to."

It gives the family as a whole something to rally around, and brings them together, she added.

"If there is a sick child in a family it affects other children in that family as well, and the parents, so to be able to bring them all together to be able to do something that they can look forward to is really quite genuine."

Various companies have sponsored each of the wishes. Their corporate logos are featured on doors on the Advent calendar that will open to reveal the wishes they sponsored.
Dessa Fitzherbert watches with her Dad, as her wish on the Make-A-Wish Foundation Advent calendar is opened. (Lydia Neufeld/CBC)

"It really took the community to come together to build this," Hodson said.

Keller Construction stepped up to build the calendar, William Huff Advertising created the graphics, Zag Creative made the illustrations, and Melcor donated the use of the land, she said.

The holiday event kicked off Thursday and will include a 'Miracle Marketplace' from December 1-3 that will feature local artisans and food vendors.

The idea for the massive calendar came from one Hodson saw during a visit to Turin, Italy last Christmas that was set up in a square, and included performances by children's groups..

The Advent calendar will remain in the park, lit up at night, until Jan. 7.

"We're giving them [sick children] a bright light and something to look forward to," said Hodson.
The first 'door' of the Make-A-Wish Advent calendar reveals Dessa Fitzherbert as the recipient of a wish. Later this month she'll travel with her family to Disneyland. (Lydia Neufeld/CBC)