Abbey Vela, a Rio Grande Valley ambassador for the Make A Wish Foundation, most recently led the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District to raise more than $17,000 for the organization.
Vela was born with a life threatening kidney disease and was contacted by the Make A Wish Foundation when she was 4 years old. “My wish was to go to Disney World and meet Cinderella,” she said.
Her wish had to wait, however, until she was healthy enough to make the trip. Five years later, as a 9-year-old, Vela got to see her wish come true. She described the trip as “amazing.”
“Abbey got her life back when she got her wish,” her mom, Vicky Cantu, said. “I saw my little girl come to life. I saw her smile for the first time. I can’t give you the exact words to describe it, but she said, ‘Now I’m happy, Mom’.”
Soon after, in 2005, Vela started advocating for the Make A Wish Foundation as a Rio Grande Valley ambassador.
“Abbey talks in front of thousands of people and tells them how it changed her life. She wants to help other children get their wish and not feel any pain for one day,” Cantu said.
Each year, Vela says, Make A Wish puts on the Believe Campaign by partnering with Macy’s. For every letter to Santa Claus that Macy’s received, they donated a dollar to Make A Wish.
One day this year, however, every letter was worth $2, Vela said. She led Harlingen CISD in writing a flood of letters to Santa and together they worked to raise more than $17,000.
Vela, who graduated from Harlingen High School South this year, was presented with a certificate from the director of the Make A Wish Foundation for her dedication to the cause. She also was able to present her school with a certificate from the foundation for their help.
At Harlingen South, she was also involved with cheerleading, the Parent, Teacher, Student Association, the Culinary Club, Student Council and the Speech, Drama and Debate team, said Vela.
She is also involved with the Ronald McDonald House and won the local scholarship from the Kohl’s Kids Who Care Scholarship program.
She plans to continue to be involved with the Make A Wish Foundation and will be contacting HCISD again to help with the next Believe Campaign.
Vela will be attending the University of Texas at San Antonio in the fall to major in entrepreneurship. After getting her bachelor’s degree, she plans to attend culinary school and eventually open a catering bakery.
“I’m very proud of her. Everything she’s done has come from her heart,” Cantu said about Vela. “She does what she does because the doctors told her all her life that she couldn’t.”
“It’s going to be hard to let her go,” said Cantu about Vela attending UTSA. “If I could be like my daughter, I would. She’s my hero.”
To find out more about the Make A Wish Foundation in the Rio Grande Valley, visit riograndevalley.wish.org.