DOWNERS GROVE – Rett syndrome severely limits 5-year-old Cammy Babiarz’s communication and movement. But on Friday, she got to cross one item off her wish list – being a cheerleader.
The 5-year-old from Wheaton was one of three children whose wishes came true Friday at Downers Grove South High School’s annual spring assembly. The celebration featured student music performances, dance routines, and speeches from current and future students in front of a large and enthusiastic gymnasium crowd.
When the cheerleaders took the floor, Cammy was in tow, helped by a coach guiding her wheelchair into the formation.
Cammy communicates with her parents, Bill and Jackie Babiarz, using a machine that reads her eye movements. She looks at objects on the screen, and the computer allows her to put together sentences based on what she looks at.
Last year, she crossed another item off the list by seeing the Stanley Cup. This year, she was able to use the device and tell her parents she wanted to be a cheerleader.
“There’s no doubt it’s difficult at times,” Bill Babiarz said. “And figuring out what she wants is challenging. But the best thing that’s come out of Rett syndrome for us is to see the good in other people.
“Just seeing how somebody invites her to something like this, it’s heartwarming. It’s great, it’s very exciting. And you really get to see the good in everybody, which is fantastic.”
Friday’s assembly acts as a pep rally for the annual fundraising drive, this year chosen by students to support the Make a Wish foundation.
Joining Cammy at the assembly were Paul, 4, and his parents Garrett and Alicia (the family asked for its last name to be omitted), and Aiden Allmon and his mother, Sandra Allmon.
A group of six students dressed like Disney princesses, along with another student dressed as a genie, surprised Aiden, 3, with a trip to Disney World, and then later Paul with a trip to Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
During the assembly, South High School senior Ryan Coyne talked about her sister Morgan’s battle with Rett syndrome, which eventually took her life at age 12.
“She never let anything bother her or get in her way,” Coyne said. She also described strong memories from her family’s Make a Wish trip to Disney World with Morgan and the lasting impact those memories provide.
“Every moment of that trip was amazing,” she said. “If I could go again I wouldn’t change a thing.”
The student body and faculty voted to choose the Make a Wish Foundation this year, after supporting St. Baldrick’s the past three years.
More than $9,000 has been raised already this spring. The past three years, more than $187,000 has been raised total, according to Student Activities Director John Aldworth.