LITTLE VILLAGE — A 9-year-old girl in Little Village had her dream come true as the Make-A-Wish Foundation set up a gazebo in her backyard.
Lily Serrato, 9, can now play outside and take in fresh air without worrying about being in the sun for too long.
Lily has cerebral palsy and has dealt with seizures since she was a baby, said her mother, Sandy Serrato. Serrato said her daughter loves watching movies, doing “anything with paint” and watching the butterflies, birds and bees in her backyard.
During the pandemic, Serrato built a small vegetable garden in the backyard so Lily could get her hands dirty and have fun, she said. That was when Serrato realized how much her daughter enjoys being outside.
“She enjoyed watching the birds flying from one power light to the next. And one of our neighbors has this beautiful bush that flowers into our yard, and we would watch the butterflies come and the bees,” Serrato said.
When the opportunity arose for Lily to be granted a wish through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Serrato thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to have somewhere she could be outside, where we could do her activities and we wouldn’t have to time it by the sun and the shade?”
Lily had to spend more than a month in the hospital at the end of last year due to uncontrollable seizures, Serrato said. During that stint in the hospital, Lily’s neurologist asked if the child had ever been nominated with Make-A-Wish.
“I just never thought of us as qualifying for something like that,” Serrato said. Even though “I’m sitting in the hospital with a kid who’s on all these machines, in my head I’m thinking, ‘This is something we shouldn’t be asking for.’”
But Serrato said the doctor was encouraging, assuring her Lily was eligible for the program.
“The doctor told us, ‘Let’s try to do something special for [Lily] now that she’s older,’” Serrato said.
The gazebo, built by members of Carpenters Local Union 1 who donated their time, has sliding doors and windows with screens so the amount of sun and breeze that comes in is flexible. Serrato said she’s going to install bird feeders and plant flowers around the windows.
Serrato said the family is calling it her daughter’s “Lily Pad.”
Serrato said she had been thinking about doing something small in the backyard for Lily, but an entire gazebo wasn’t in the budget. She said she had to prioritize buying a wheelchair-accessible van and installing a wheelchair elevator for the front of their home.
“This is a lot more than we could have ever expected,” she said.
Serrato said sometimes families with kids with special needs tend to power through, trying to stay humble, but she recommends asking about and researching what resources are available for kids outside of things attached to their medical condition.
“It’s OK to look outside and see what resources there are to have a little fun, and to sort of get your mind off of the medical journey and focus on just being a family,” Serrato said.
Serrato said she’s looking forward to warmer weather when she and Lily can decorate the Lily Pad and start spending time in it.
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