2013-01-17 / Front Page

A wish comes true for Alissa Leier through Make-A-Wish Foundation

By Terri Lang


Posing for a family photo at the Magic Castle in Give Kids the World Village, left to right, are the Leiers—Nancy, Marissa, Ross, Alissa, Larry, Aaron and Nathan. Posing for a family photo at the Magic Castle in Give Kids the World Village, left to right, are the Leiers—Nancy, Marissa, Ross, Alissa, Larry, Aaron and Nathan. “I wished for a family vacation because our family has really never been on a vacation together,” Alissa Leier said.

Alissa’s wish came true for her and her family.

On Dec. 28, 2012, 12 members of the Leier family boarded a plane to Florida through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

In October of 2012, Alissa submitted her application to the foundation.

“You can basically wish for anything you want,” Alissa said.

Since 1980, the Make- A-Wish Foundation has enriched the lives of children with life-threatening medical conditions through its wishgranting work.

Alissa was diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia in December of 2009. It is a rare, inherited disease that causes nervous system damage and movement problems. It usually begins in childhood and leads to impaired muscle coordination but does not affect thinking and reasoning abilities.


Make-A-Wish Foundation team member Brock Schoch saw Alissa off on her trip to Florida with her family on December 28 at the Bismarck Municipal Airport. Make-A-Wish Foundation team member Brock Schoch saw Alissa off on her trip to Florida with her family on December 28 at the Bismarck Municipal Airport. Alissa’s physician needed to review the application and sign the approval form in order for her to continue the process.

Make-A-Wish then sent one of their Wish Team members to learn more about Alissa’s wish.

In November, Alissa heard that her wish came true. The whole Leier family joined Alissa on her trip, except for her brother, Matthew, who stayed home to take care of the livestock.

Family members included Alissa’s parents, Larry and Ross Leier; sister Nicole Vander Vorst along with her husband, Dustin, and their children, Tucker 4 and Dawson 2; sister Nancy and her boyfriend, Alex Deis; brother Nathan, who has the same diagnosis; sister Marissa, and Alissa’s twin brother Aaron.


At Disney World, Alissa visits with Minnie Mouse. She said her nephews loved the Disney characters. At Disney World, Alissa visits with Minnie Mouse. She said her nephews loved the Disney characters. For most of them, this was the first time they had flown in an airplane.

Prior to their departure from Bismarck, they lodged at the Ramkota Hotel. A limousine gave them a wonderful ride to the airport.

They arrived in Orlando, Fla., and stayed at Give Kids the World.

Give Kids The World began with a little girl, named Amy, with a wish and the desire of one man to make that wish come true.Amy had leukemia and one wish—to visit the theme parks in Orlando. To facilitate Amy’s wish, the request of a complimentary stay was made to a respected hotelier. Sadly, the remainder ofAmy’s travel plans took too long to arrange and her wish was never granted; Amy had passed away.


A fast moving ride at Hollywood Rip Ride RockIt was fun for Nathan and Marissa in the front row and Aaron and Alissa in the back. A fast moving ride at Hollywood Rip Ride RockIt was fun for Nathan and Marissa in the front row and Aaron and Alissa in the back. This unfulfilled wish inspired a man, the hotelier, to make a vow that no child in need would ever be failed again. That man was Henri Landwirth, and his desire to ensure that Amy’s story would never repeat itself is how and why Give Kids The World began.

Landwirth enlisted the support of colleagues in the hospitality industry, including world-famous theme parks, to assist him in bringing families to central Florida within 24 hours if need be. He called the project “Give Kids The World” because that is just what he intended to do—provide memorable, magical, cost-free experiences to children with lifethreatening illnesses and their families.

As the program expanded and the number of families continued to grow, it was apparent that Give Kids The World would need to create a place that could better serve the special needs of families. The gates of Give Kids The World Village opened in 1989.


In Animal Kingdom, the family waved and screamed as they took this ride on Thunder Mountain. In Animal Kingdom, the family waved and screamed as they took this ride on Thunder Mountain. Today, the Village is a 70-acre resort complete with over 140 Villa accommodations, entertainment attractions, whimsical venues and fun specifically designed for children with special needs.

Give Kids The World is a non-profit organization that has welcomed more than 120,000 families from all 50 states and over 74 countries. They have over 3,500 devoted volunteer angels, countless compassionate corporate and individual heroes, and dedicated staff members.

Leiers rented a car to travel to the several theme parks they visited during their stay.

“The first day we got stuck in the middle of an intersection, and dad panicked a bit, but we managed to find our way out of that one,” Alissa laughed.


Appetites were big as the family did lots of hiking during their trip. Alissa and Aaron enjoy huge turkey drumsticks for lunch. Appetites were big as the family did lots of hiking during their trip. Alissa and Aaron enjoy huge turkey drumsticks for lunch. The family spent their days and evenings at Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld.

The kids thought the rides were the best part of the trip. The adults enjoyed a few rides also but appreciated the several shows that were offered at the theme parks.

In Disney World, they visited Epcot Center, Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom.

“My two little nephews, Tucker and Dawson, loved meeting the Disney characters,” Alissa said.

Alissa said Magic Kingdom was very busy, and there were times when the lines did not move.

“We had a fast pass, but without that, we would have waited for up to three hours for some of the rides,” she said.


On the Kraken ride at SeaWorld, the tourists were full of smiles. In front, left to right, are Alissa and Marissa, and in the back are Nathan, Aaron, Alex Deis and Nancy. On the Kraken ride at SeaWorld, the tourists were full of smiles. In front, left to right, are Alissa and Marissa, and in the back are Nathan, Aaron, Alex Deis and Nancy. The trip was enjoyable, but also exhausting, as they were on the run the entire time they were in Orlando.

Alissa is so grateful to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Give Kids the World.

“They must have such big hearts to do this for kids with special needs who may never ever get the chance to do things like this. I am so grateful that there are people like that in the world,”Alissa said.



Epcot Center was interesting and educational. Epcot Center was interesting and educational.

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