WEST POINT — Alia Reber and her family have reaped the benefits offered by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and now they want to make sure others in need can benefit in the same way.
Three years after being the recipients of 10-year-old Alia’s wish to go to Disney World, the Rebers are working to give back to the organization that helped them when they needed it most.
The family is hosting their third annual Make-A-Wish carnival from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday at 430 N. 3425 West in West Point.
The fundraising has become contagious. Alia’s young friends work tirelessly, selling lemonade and soliciting donations from their neighbors to help the foundation that helped their friend.
In fall 2009, then-7-year-old Alia, who has a cranial nerve deficiency called Moebius syndrome, contracted a serious infection that doctors said would take her life before that Christmas.
Moebius syndrome limits Alia’s ability to speak, display facial expressions and breathe without a ventilator. She often gets life-threatening respiratory infections and pneumonia.
Her family and doctors helped her qualify for a wish offered by the foundation, which grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions.
Alia was granted her wish to take her family on a weeklong trip to Disney World. They were treated to a week of luxury free from the distractions of doctors, hospitals and medical treatments.
“It gave us time to go and be a family,” said Alia’s mother, Suzanne Reber. “We let her do what she could do at that point in time, and just be a little kid. We could be a family without having to worry about home life and work.”
In the subsequent months, Alia would defy the doctor’s diagnosis and recover from her infection.
Three years later, “she is doing awesome,” Suzanne said.
“Doctors don’t even know why she is still here. We just don’t say too much, and we are just grateful. She is so strong and doing so well.”
The Rebers have now made it their mission to give back to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
The past three summers, the family has purchased supplies — bounce houses, cotton candy, pizza, popcorn and balloons — to provide a free carnival for the neighborhood. They simply set out a jar asking for contributions for Make-A-Wish.
Suzanne said the contributions usually reach around $2,000, and it all goes to Make-A-Wish.
The Reber family also raises funds to contribute to the Utah chapter of Make-A-Wish Foundation’s annual Rubber Ducky Derby.
Rubber ducks can be purchased for $6 each and are then raced around a lazy river at the Lindon Aquatics Center in Utah County.
Alia’s friends, Madi Dee and Louren Cook, both 10, have made it their goal to sell a rubber ducky to every home in their neighborhood to help their friend. They have gone door-to-door asking for donations and also created a special lemonade stand to raise additional funds.
Although Alia may not be able to communicate with her friends using words, the girls enjoy asking Alia “yes” and “no” questions that she answers with sign language.
They also enjoy playing on the spinning toys on their elementary school playground at recess, as well as playing with Alia’s dolls.
“We just do whatever Alia wants to do,” Louren said. “I love Alia. She is so awesome.”
“I feel good about it because I’m helping someone. It’s fun to go out and help people,” Madi said.
“(Alia) is just a miracle. Nobody knows why she survives what she survives,” Suzanne said.
“There’s no reason why she’s still here in the medical world. ... For us, there’s obviously something more that she’s teaching us.”
Alia Reber’s family is hosting their third annual Make-A-Wish carnival from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday at 430 N. 3425 West in West Point. Free, but contributions to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation are accepted.