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updated: 2/25/2012 9:15 AM

Make-A-Wish gives Gilberts girl a chance to swim with the dolphins

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  • The Walsh family from Gilberts is traveling to the Bahamas so Lola, 5, who has congenital heart disease, can swim with the dolphins as part of a Make-A-Wish Foundation vacation. Lola displays an underwater camera she plans to use on the trip.

       The Walsh family from Gilberts is traveling to the Bahamas so Lola, 5, who has congenital heart disease, can swim with the dolphins as part of a Make-A-Wish Foundation vacation. Lola displays an underwater camera she plans to use on the trip.
    Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • The Walsh family from Gilberts is traveling to the Bahamas so Lola, 5, who has congenital heart disease, can swim with the dolphins as part of a Make-A-Wish Foundation vacation. Parents Matt and Kelli are pictured at home in Gilberts with son Jake, 12, and daughter Lola.

       The Walsh family from Gilberts is traveling to the Bahamas so Lola, 5, who has congenital heart disease, can swim with the dolphins as part of a Make-A-Wish Foundation vacation. Parents Matt and Kelli are pictured at home in Gilberts with son Jake, 12, and daughter Lola.
    Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

 

"Swim with the dolphins."

That is what 5-year-old Lola Walsh replied when asked by representatives of the Illinois chapter of Make-A-Wish organization what she always wanted to do.

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The Gilberts resident did not want to go to Disney World, meet a celebrity or play in a professional sports game like many other wishes, her father, Matt, said.

"She said all she wants to do is go someplace warm and swim with the dolphins," he said. "She likes to swim, and she likes dolphins. She's not ready to ride on the dolphins; she just wants to swim with them."

So, the little girl who was born with a heart defect and her family is traveling to the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas to swim with the dolphins. By the time you read this, she may be swimming with them already.

"This is quite the event," said Matt's wife, Kelli. "We've never been to the Bahamas."

Lola, who attends kindergarten at Gilberts Elementary School, is a natural swimmer, said Matt, who works in the Schaumburg area. She takes swim lessons at the Dundee Township Park District and spends every chance she can in the water.

She also likes to ice skate, her father said.

After having two open heart surgeries, one at five days old and another other at six months old, she is strong enough to keep up with other children her age. If her health remains stable, she will not need another operation until she is 12 years old, her father said.

"If not, she may need one in two months," he said.

But he, his wife and 12-year-old son, Jacob are trying not to think about it.

Last week, Lola was taking her blood pressure medicine and looking forward to the trip. When they are there, they will be on a sunny, and warm vacation for five days and six nights.

"I know she wants one of the dolphins to pull her around in the water," he said.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Illinois grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions. Recipients of wishes are referred by parents and physicians.

For information about Make-A-Wish of Illinois, visit the organization's website at wishes.org.

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