By Michelle Guffey
Killeen Daily Herald
Holli Dallman sat on her parents' couch, shyly clutching her two new best friends, Mickey and Minnie Mouse – reminders of an extraordinary week, a wish she made and the people who fulfilled it.
The 12-year-old girl and her family spent an entire week on a whimsical, fantasy-filled vacation at Walt Disney World, returning Saturday to Killeen just in time to enjoy freezing rain and frigid temperatures.
"It was an awesome, awesome experience," Heidi Dallman said, looking at her daughter, who was giving her Mickey doll repeated kisses on the end of its nose.
With her pale skin and long blond hair, she had the natural glow of innocence that was hers by right of her age, and that the world had not managed to dull with cynicism.
Although her speech was barely intelligible, like that of a toddler just learning the language, Holli's exhileration was palpable as she tried to express her excitement concerning her adventure.
It was Holli's simple wish for a kiss that was the starting point for her family's once-in-a-lifetime vacation.
Holli's wish was to meet Prince Charming and to give him a kiss on the cheek. Not an unusual wish for a little girl, but the events that followed were a reminder of the power of human kindness.
Her wish was granted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, an organization that grants wishes to terminally ill children.
Holli suffers from mitochondrial disease, a broad term for one of the many ailments that falls in the muscular dystrophy category. It occurs when the mitochondria in the cells can't produce enough energy, not leaving enough energy for the brain or the muscles to properly develop.
"We knew she qualified for a wish for years," Heidi said, but the family wanted to wait until Holli was old enough to enjoy her wish before they made the request.
In June, Holli's doctor submitted the paperwork regarding Holli's wish to the foundation, and later that month, the family met with representatives from Make-A-Wish.
It was a trip that was tailor-made for a child's imagination, designed to immerse the child in the realm of fantasy and to help them forget about the reality of their life.
The family spent three days at the famed theme park, a few days at Universal studios and the rest of the week at Give Kids The World, a resort specially designed for Make-A-Wish kids.
Of course, the big moment was the meeting with Prince Charming.
"She got so nervous when she saw him, about all she could muster up was ... he gave her a hug and then she kissed him right in the side," Heidi said.
Holli spent time with both the prince and Cinderella. And at night when it was time for bed, the mayor of the resort, a big bunny, came to her room to tuck her into bed.
"That was one of her highlights," Heidi said.
The trip was a double-sided coin of emotions for the family.
"It's kind of hard to put into words (what the trip has meant)," Barry Dallman said. "The whole basis of the trip is the fact that we don't know if Holli is going to make it until age 18."
But for one week, Holli got to be like other children her own age, without worries about her disease limiting her activities and the thought of being different from the other kids.
"A lot of things are very, very hard for Holli," Heidi said. "At Give Kids The World, she was totally like normal kids. There was nothing there she couldn't do."
"It's something we will never, ever forget."
Contact Michelle Guffey at firstname.lastname@example.org