Trips that transform: How airline miles can transform a child’s life

(BPT) - Maksim was just a few months shy of 2 years old when his parents rushed him to the emergency room for severe flu-like symptoms, only to find that their little boy was suffering from kidney failure. Since that day, Maksim has spent most of his six years in and out of hospitals, doctors' offices and dialysis treatments.

After receiving a life-saving kidney transplant from his father, Maksim and his family had to remain vigilant to protect him from any risk of infection by limiting his daily activities and exposure to other people. He has not had the life most children enjoy, as he is unable to go to school and play with other children.

Despite all of this, Maksim has always kept a positive attitude, as his parents observed: "His joy blows us away." Maksim's parents have chosen to put some of their own plans on the back burner while coping with his mounting medical needs and getting Maksim the care he needs to survive. Most of what Maksim knows and remembers in his short life is being sick — a life filled with needles, surgeries, side effects from medications, dialysis, hospitalizations and more.

Until Maksim's social worker told his family about Make-A-Wish(R).

Maksim is fascinated by sharks, and he wanted to visit Hawaii to spend time at the ocean. “I like playing with shark toys,” Maksim said. “And I have a lot of shark books! I love when my parents read to me.”

Due to medical delays, it was awhile before Maksim would be able to take such a trip, but once his wish came true, his parents described his wish trip to Hawaii as “pure joy."

“Every waking moment outside of his medical care was focused on him having fun," Maksim's parents said. "We all got to pause life’s responsibilities and focus on fun and family. It was such a unique opportunity to take time out and do something special, because he has to live with this affliction for the rest of his life. At the end of the day, there just isn't much time left to spend together because there is always something else demanding your attention. Being granted time away like this brings tears to our eyes.”

At Make-A-Wish, 77 percent of children’s wishes involve some form of travel. Make-A-Wish has the resources to grant only half of those wishes. To make all of those life-changing wishes come true, the organization needs more than 3 billion airline miles or points and 25,000 room nights every year.

If you have unused or close-to-expiring airline miles/points, you can make a difference in the life of a child battling a critical illness. Donate your miles or points through participating travel sponsors, including American Airlines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, JetBlue and Delta Air Lines. And, once you donate miles and points to Make-A-Wish, they never expire.

Here’s how you can help:

1. Visit wish.org/travel.

2. Select the airline(s) of the miles/points you would like to donate.

3. Know you have transformed the lives of wish kids and their families with your donation!

Your gift of airline miles/points is crucial for children with critical illnesses. That’s because a wish trip creates an opportunity for a child to experience life beyond illness. It’s also a chance for a family like Maksim’s to reconnect and get much-deserved respite.

When asked what his favorite part of his wish trip to Hawaii was, Maksim responded, “I think the whole trip was my favorite part!”

To learn more about Make-A-Wish, visit wish.org or check out #TripsThatTransform on Instagram to see some of the amazing places wish families have experienced, thanks to Make-A-Wish donors and partners.

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