Wish comes true for Anoka girl with incurable illness

A diver swims up to the glass at Sea Life in the Mall of America with a sign to let 12-year-old Daisy Richards, of Anoka, know that her wish is granted to go to the Bahamas Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020 in Bloomington. Richards has a severe gastrointestinal disorder that has no cure. A Twin City online travel advice company called Thrifty Traveler is partnering with Make-A-Wish Minnesota to donate its customers’ extra sky miles to the foundation to help cover travel costs for kids. (Jean Pieri / Pioneer Press)

As 12-year-old Daisy Richards watched the fish swimming at the Sea Life aquarium at the Mall of America Wednesday, she had no idea that two of the finned creatures would have a message just for her.

As part of a “wish reveal” event organized by Twin Cities-based Thrifty Traveler and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Daisy, who has an incurable gastrointestinal disorder, was about to get her desire to go to the Bahamas granted in a very unique way.

From among the fish, two divers appeared, high-fiving her through the glass. This was the final stop in a scavenger hunt around the Mall of America.

The divers pointed to the sandy bottom, indicating buried treasure. They brushed away the sand to find a sign telling her, “Your wish to go to Atlantis is coming true!”


Daisy, of Anoka, suffers from familial adenomatous polyposis, a disorder that causes multiple growths in the colon and large intestine that could develop into cancer.

It’s also hereditary. Her dad Charles Richards and her grandmother both suffer from the same disorder.

To stay ahead of potential cancer, the large intestine and colon are usually removed. In 2018, Daisy underwent a couple of surgeries for that purpose.

There’s no known cure and it’s likely she may pass it along to her children someday.

She is able to live a “somewhat normal life,” her dad said. He is hopeful that modern medicine will minimize her symptoms. His mother has to live with a colostomy bag on the outside of her body and has had much more of her digestive tract removed. Thanks to medical advancement, Charles and Daisy have not had to go that route.


Daisy was diagnosed at age five after her family noticed her lack of energy, constant diarrhea, anemia, stomach aches and lack of appetite. Charles knew the pattern all too well, and when the doctors were told his diagnosis, they quickly figured out hers as well.

While Daisy recovered, hospital workers urged them to apply at Make-A-Wish.

Daisy, who loves to swim, loves marine animals and books about mythology, knew exactly what she wanted.

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“I wished for a trip to Atlantis in the Bahamas,” Daisy said. “I like swimming and I like animals. I found out that Atlantis has a rehabilitation center for dolphins and sea lions who lost their home. The website said they have a lot of pools and they also have a library.”

It was only fitting that her wish was granted at an aquarium filled with Caribbean Sea creatures.

She and her parents and younger brother will be treated to an all-expenses paid trip to the island paradise.

This is Thrifty Traveler’s first time partnering with Make-A-Wish Foundation. The website that helps travelers find cheap deals put out a plea to consumers to donate the extra airline miles they accumulate when flying. More than 77 percent of all wishes made by ill children involve travel.

“Travel wishes are more than just a trip,” said Mia Broos Hoagberg, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish Minnesota. “Research shows children who experience a wish can build the physical and emotional strength needed to fight their critical illness. Donated airline miles help make wishes possible.”

Their deadline for donations is March 1.

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