Wish kid gets to race alongside idol

Over the years, Make-A-Wish Connecticut has been consistent in granting the wishes of local kids, but none of it would be possible without the help of everyone within the community. As the need for wishes grows, so does the need for continued generosity. With 70% of wishes involving air travel, the miles donated will be extremely beneficial for the wish kids. The HAN Network is supporting Make-A-Wish Connecticut with the HAN Network Wishes in Flight Campaign. With a goal of 300,000 donated airline miles, you can help make travel wishes come true.

Transportation via wheelchair is definitely not easy, but Kari Craddock makes it look like a breeze when she whizzes past you during any of the multiple races that she’s competed in. Kari has an illness that affects the muscles in her legs. But it doesn’t dampen her spirits or her love for athletics.

Kari always looked up to Paralympic gold medalist and 14-time world champion Tatyana McFadden, who has the same condition she has. Getting to meet Tatyana would be a dream come true for Kari. Little did Kari know that dream would become a reality.

Kari had also always wanted to experience the magic of Disney, so she and her family decided on a trip to Disneyland for a welcome respite from their stressful daily routines.

Just a week before Kari and her family departed on their journey to Disneyland, they went out to eat at Kari’s favorite restaurant, thinking it was just an ordinary night. When Kari entered the restaurant, she was greeted with the news that Tatyana McFadden would be accompanying her for a few days of her trip. If Kari couldn’t wait to go before, now she was even more excited. Kari’s mom said the news of Tatyana joining Kari was one of the hardest secrets ever to keep.

While in Disneyland, Kari and Tatyana completed the Neverland 5K race together. And it wouldn’t be a Disneyland race if you didn’t wear a costume. Kari and Tatyana both donned Tinkerbell costumes to make sure they would be racing in style.

Kari even got to hang out with Tatyana in Downtown Disney in a more relaxed environment.

Not many people get racing tips from a world champion Paralympian, but Kari did, and much more. Kari and Tatyana went on rides together in Disney, had dinner together, and got to know each other by sharing experiences.

“I was sad it was over, but it was a totally amazing experience,” said Kari when asked how she felt after the trip.

Kari’s meetings with Tatyana were not over when the trip ended. A few months later, Tatyana was competing in a race in New York, closer to home for Kari than Disneyland. At that event, Kari had the opportunity to give Tatyana her racing bib at the beginning of the race. It was something special to see her idol twice in the same year.

Recently, Tatyana missed a race because of surgery and posted about her recovery on social media. Kari had recently had surgery as well and follows Tatyana on social media. “It is so inspiring to see how many parallels there are between Tatyana and Kari,” said Kari’s mom, Karleen. “And that they got to meet and learn more about each other … it’s just amazing.”

More than 100 Connecticut kids are waiting for their wishes to come true in the coming months, and most of those wishes involve travel. You may donate unused Delta or United miles directly to the HAN Network Wishes in Flight Campaign by visiting CT.WISH.ORG/HANNetwork. JetBlue, Southwest Airlines and American Airlines also accept airline miles donations that support Make-A-Wish through their airline mile donation programs, which can be contributed through their individual websites.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Connecticut grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.  Wish-come-true experiences can do wonders by providing a much-needed break from lengthy hospital stays and medical treatments. They give back to a child what a serious medical condition can take away — the chance to simply enjoy being a kid. Wish kids choose something that will inspire happiness and allows them to spend precious time with their families. The Connecticut chapter has made more than 2,800 wishes come true since its inception in 1986. Learn more about Connecticut wishes at ct.wish.org, or join Make-A-Wish on Facebook (search Make-A-Wish Connecticut) and follow them on Twitter and Instagram (@MakeAWishCT).