Make-A-Wish children are given the opportunity to choose a wish where the possibilities are endless. 13 year old Brooklyn's wish showed just how special she truly is.
In November of 2017, 13-year-old Brooklyn Gallagher began experiencing what appeared to be symptoms of an upper respiratory infection. Initially, her mother, Tiffany Divicenzo, thought that it was merely a common cold. However, as Brooklyn’s symptoms began to worsen, her lymph nodes began to swell as well. The night before thanksgiving, an X-ray showed that her symptoms were not caused by pneumonia. In December, a biopsy of the affected tissue confirmed a cancer diagnosis – Stage 2 Nodula Sclerosing Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NSCHL). “I was hysterical. You don’t think something like this will ever happen to your kid” said Divicenzo.
NSCHL is the most common type of Hodgkin’s lymphoma in developed countries, accounting for 70% of all lymphoma cases. It is mainly diagnosed in teenagers and young adults (ages 15 to 35), although it can occur in individuals of any age. NSCHL tends to develop in the lymph nodes in the neck or chest.
Throughout her journey with cancer, Brooklyn’s family and friends have shown their support with fundraisers and a GoFundMe page. Her mother had her insurance cut off after she cut back to working part time so that she could focus on her daughter. “It’s been really difficult. I’m fortunate to have a really supportive family and community” said Divincenzo.
Brooklyn was approved to receive a wish from Make-A-Wish New Hampshire. Make-A-Wish is a nonprofit organization that grants wishes to children diagnosed with critical illnesses. Hundreds of thousands of donors, volunteers, and supporters from all across the nation aim to change the lives of these children for the better. Wish children are given the opportunity to choose a wish to receive something, to go somewhere, to meet someone, to be something, or to give something – the possibilities are endless.
Brooklyn’s wish was one that showed just how special she truly is.
Lucky number 13 – becoming a voice for the voiceless
Brooklyn told Make-A-Wish New Hampshire that she wanted to rescue a group of 13 animals in need and to find them warm homes. “I could go to Disneyland or something. It’s fun while it lasts, but it only lasts so long. The adoption day, it’s over, but it affects animals for the rest of their lives” she said. Her mother urged her to choose something for herself, but her daughter responded that helping animals would make her happy. “It just makes me feel sick to my stomach to think that animals can be put down for no apparent reason except there’s not enough space, so I just wanted to help them find their forever home and be able to live their life to the longest” said Brooklyn.
So, the nonprofit organization partnered with the New Hampshire Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NHSPCA) to make this very special, heartfelt wish come true. The NHSPCA is a nonprofit organization that serves over 121 communities in the Greater Seacoast of New Hampshire, southern Maine, and northern Massachusetts. The mission of the organization is to save the lives of companion animals through rescue, rehabilitation, and adoption. The NHSPCA also aims to promote learning and volunteer opportunities, to eliminate animal cruelty, and to become a leader in advancing the highest standards of animal welfare. “Everyone at the NHSPCA is very excited about helping to make Brooklyn’s wish come true of rescuing dogs from less fortunate shelters and helping them find new homes here in New Hampshire. We have high hopes that many families will find their new best friend at Brooklyn’s Rescue Adoption Day!” said Paula Parisi, Humane Educations Manager at the NHSPCA.
A group of animals from a kill shelter were brought to the NHSPCA to be part of an adoption drive hosted by Brooklyn. “You read about kids who travel or meet a celebrity, but she chose to help rescue animals in kill-shelters, mostly in southern states. She couldn’t bear the thought of animals being euthanized because there is no space for them” said Parisi.
On the day of the adoption drive, Brooklyn arrived at the NHSPCA to greet the animals and to learn about their personalities. Her family, friends, and staff members at NHSPCA – all of whom were wearing “Brooklyn’s Adoption Day” T-shirts - gathered to offer their support when the doors opened.
By the end of the day, Brooklyn’s wish was a major success. All 7 puppies, 1 older dog, 3 cats, and two guinea pigs were matched with families as a result of the event. The animals were given a second chance at life thanks to the caring and thoughtful heart of a remarkable young lady.
Making a lasting impression
“Brave like Brooklyn” has become the slogan used by those helping her. Brooklyn’s mother and teachers said that she has maintained a giving spirit throughout her battle with cancer, refusing to be broken by the physical toll of her chemotherapy or by the emotional toll of her diagnosis. “It can slow me down, but it can’t stop me” said Brooklyn. Even her classmates have been inspired by her big-heartedness, helping her to help others. They made colored “Brooklyn” rocks, cards, and banners that went toward cancer patients, as well as gift baskets and gift certificates that were raffled off.
Today, Brooklyn is in remission. She has begun to regrow her hair and she is regaining some of the energy she had lost while undergoing chemotherapy. She is also going to serve as a junior volunteer at SPCA this fall, extending herself to further the organization’s mission. “When the school year starts, she’ll help take care of the small animals and cats. Our education programs teach young people they can make a difference in whatever their interests are; whether that’s issues like protecting the environment or helping out animals” said Parisi.
Brooklyn’s illuminating spirit, heart of gold, and endless determination, including her will to help others despite her own illness, have blown those around her away – especially her mother. “I couldn’t be prouder. Some days I think she’s stronger than me” she said.