Dreams Come True for Children with Illnesses in Rochester

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Disney dreams are about to become a reality for one Rochester teen.

Max LaMonica, 14, lives with cerebral palsy and life-threatening allergies. Now, he and his family are making the trip he always wanted to Walt Disney World.

“He goes through a lot, and he does it with a smile and with courage, and he has a lot to be proud of," said Joanne LaMonica, his mother. "He said when his rehab was all done, his one wish was to go to Disney World. And he knew he’d be stronger physically to be able to do it, and it’s one of the few places on the planet that he can actually eat safely. So it’s finally coming to fruition to have him do the trip of a lifetime.”

It’s all thanks to The Dream Factory, a national volunteer organization that collects donations to help grant wishes for children with illnesses.

“For kids like Max, who live with a chronic disability, a lifelong disability, and they go through their life – it’s a different kind of childhood, and this is their normal," said Joanne LaMonica. "But I think that it’s awesome there are organizations like the Dream Factory that recognize kids like Max and other kids dealing with chronic illnesses and disabilities.”

The Dream Factory Rochester chapter is granting wishes for five families this month. Four of those families are heading to Disney World.

“To be able to go and have some time with our family really helps," said Janell Nov, whose daughter Naomi lives with diabetes. "[It's] something to look forward to, and we’ll look back at this time. And when we’re struggling at night with yucky diabetes stuff and doctor’s appointments, and low blood sugars, we’ll think, ‘Dream Factory did something really special for our family.’”

The Dream Factory organizer says you can’t underestimate just how special their work is.

“We have had a couple kids who’ve passed away after we’ve done their dreams, and that was heartbreaking," said The Dream Factory of Rochester Area Director Laura Walitsky. "But then I went to their funerals, and there’s pictures from their trips, and smiling faces. And those are the memories that these families have. And that changed everything for me. That’s when it clicked for me personally, showing me how much this experience means to these families.”

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