Lodi girl’s African safari wish granted
Lodi’s Rylie-Ann Cacay made a wish upon a star, and Saturday afternoon it came true.
Rylie-Ann thought she was attending the NorCal Kenworth company picnic at Micke Grove Regional Park to discuss her wishes with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. When she got there, though, she found out her wish to go on an African safari had been granted.
“I was, very surprised. I was not expecting anything. I thought I was going to be talking in front of adults, and I was feeling scared because I don’t like talking to adults,” said Rylie-Ann, 12.
Sara Cacay, Rylie-Ann’s mother said she was overwhelmed by the compassion and generosity of NorCal Kenworth.
“They went above and beyond. They also gave Rylie-Ann art supplies and a basket of cooking equipment, and a Harry Potter cookbook,” Sara said. “You could tell they took a genuine interest in who Rylie-Ann is.”
NorCal Kenworth has even arranged for Rylie-Ann to appear on chef Scott Leysath’s cooking show, “Dead Meat,” which airs on the Sportsman Channel.
During the picnic, Sara said she was astounded by the hospitality of employees at NorCal Kenworth.
“They made us feel like we were part of the family,” she said.
At the age of 7, Rylie-Ann was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, following a string of debilitating stomach pain episodes that left her in the hospital.
Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory disease of the digestive tract, which can lead to abdominal pain, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition, and other systemic symptoms like fatigue and pain. It can lead to permanent intestinal damage, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Due to the nature of RylieAnn’s disease, she has had to use a feeding tube to obtain nutrients when her stomach is too weak for digestion. She currently takes more than 20 medications to alleviate the symptoms of her disease.
Rylie-Ann has been hospitalized nearly every school year since being diagnosed, Sara said.
Rylie-Ann misses roughly 30 days a year, her mother said, because of weeklong hospitalizations, but her middle school works with her to make sure she does not fall behind.
“Rylie-Ann was refereed to us due to the severity of her disease,” said Michele Sanders, Make-A-Wish Northeastern, Central California, and Northern Nevada vice president of communications.
The Make-A-Wish foundation works with children battling critical illnesses, to help them fight harder and see the impossible become possible, through their wishgranting process.
Kids that make wishes are given four wishing categories: “I wish I could meet,” “I wish I could have,” “I wish I could be” and “I wish I could go.”
Rylie-Ann said she would like to meet celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay because she loves cooking and has cooking competitions with her sister.
“He is a really good chef and he is my favorite chef, so I wanted to meet him,” she said.
She also asked for art supplies because she loves to draw.
“I like to draw animals and scenery,” she said.
Drawing has become therapeutic for Rylie-Ann and has allowed her to keep herself occupied when she is hospitalized or sick.
With her remaining wishes, she wished to become a gastroenterologist and to go on an African safari.
Rylie-Ann said she wanted to go on safari because she loves animals and has always wanted to see a rhinoceros.
“She put a star next to African safari, which meant it was her top wish,” Sanders said.
Her wish was sponsored by NorCal Kenworth — a family-owned and operated heavy and medium-duty truck dealership in Northern California — which is why she was invited to the company picnic, Sanders said.
According to Sanders, NorCal Kenworth has sponsored several wishes for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, but they chose Rylie-Ann because a family member within the company had been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, so it struck a chord.
“I am excited that I get to do this. It is cool!” Rylie-Ann said.
Sara said the family has not gone on any long-distance trips since Rylie-Ann was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.
“Since we are doing this with Make-AWish, we don’t have to nervous about the planning, because they know what RylieAnn needs, so they know how to plan the trip,” Sara said.
Since finding out about the trip, Sara said her son, who is 8 years old, has been doing a lot of research about Africa.
“It is something everyone is excited about,” Sara said.
Rylie-Ann Cacay, 12, receives a safari hat at Micke Grove Regional Park in Lodi on Saturday from Make A Wish Foundation’s Michele Sanders as Rylie-Ann’s wish of going on an African safari is granted.
Rylie-Ann Cacay, 12, receives an art-supply gift from NorCal Kenworth’s Harry Mamizuka as her mom, Sara Cacay, looks on at Micke Grove Regional Park in Lodi on Saturday.