'Thank you isn't enough': 3 years after Make-A-Wish trip, Franklin County boy thriving

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Thursday, May 4, 2023
Franklin County family celebrates World Wish Day 3 years later
In its 43 years, the Make-A-Wish foundation has granted over a half-million wishes to sick children nationwide.

YOUNGSVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- At home in Youngsville, Jessica Vilardo and her 9-year-old son Max are counting their blessings three years after Max's big Make-A-Wish moment.

Max was born with mitochondrial disease, a rare form of dwarfism and a congenital heart defect called Long QT syndrome, which his family lovingly calls "The Max Package."

The potassium channel to Max's heart is like a straw with holes in it, so potassium can't arrive as it should and can trigger cardiac arrest.

"He was very sick, and he said, 'I know what will make me all better,'" Vilardo said.

Max's Mickey Mouse doll always made him feel better when he had surgeries. So, he told his mom his wish.

"I wanted to get a hug from Mickey," he said.

Vilardo said after that she called her husband and told him Max's wish.

"He said, 'OK, we'll figure it out.' Make-A-Wish figured it out for us," Vilardo said.

In its 43 years, the Make-A-Wish Foundation has granted over a half-million wishes to sick children nationwide. In January 2020, the foundation granted Max's wish and paid for he and his family of seven to go to Walt Disney World.

"It was just magical," Max said.

ALSO SEE: Disneyland dedicates 3 windows on Main Street to Make-A-Wish

Max met many of Disney's biggest stars during his trip, but saved the biggest hug for Mickey Mouse.

"I was honestly frozen in shock," he said. "I wanted to see Mickey for a long time."

"He saw Mickey and locked in on Mickey and just sprinted toward Mickey. My husband looked at me and said, 'You can cry now.' And I was already crying," Vilardo said.

Make-A-Wish believes a granted wish can create a turning point in treatment, giving patients a renewed strength to fight an illness.

While Max has a long road ahead, in the three years since he got to hug Mickey, he hasn't needed a single hospital stay.

"Thank you isn't enough. Thank you isn't a big enough word," said Vilardo.

The family remains thankful and wants to thank the foundation in the most Disney way possible in celebration of World Wish Day.

"If you need a big word, then why don't you just do the biggest word? Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," said Max.

"That might be the word for Make-A-Wish," Vilardo said. "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious... that's our thank you. It's the biggest word."