SHIRMIA ESPINOZA smiled broadly, taking a ride on her lime green bike under the watchful eye of President Paula-Mae Weekes, her mother, Lyddiann Espinoza and members of the Grant-A-Wish foundation and sponsor of the bike Mikes Bikes.
Shirmia’s wish was granted through the Grant-a-Wish Foundation which celebrated the tenth anniversary of its Santa Claus Parade on Sunday where Espinoza was presented with her bike and stationery. The parade began at the Queen’s Park Savannah opposite the National Academy for the Performing Arts (Napa) and ended opposite Whitehall.
Shirmia’s mother Lyddiann said the ten-year-old Manzanilla child was diagnosed with extramedullary leukaemia (EML). EML is “also known as myeloid sarcoma, is a rare manifestation of acute myelogenous leukaemia and often accompanies bone marrow involvement,” bloodreviews.com said.
“When she was nine, on February 10, she was diagnosed with EML. It has been a tough couple of months. Prayers, a lot of support from family/friends and a lot of support from her doctors and stuff, and we finally got her in remission after how much months. They said the survival rate for that type of cancer was only 24 per cent.”
Lyddiann said she was scared for her child. “I did not want to lose my child to this. I said I wanted to do everything in my power to make sure she stays here with us.
“I am thanking God every single day for the time that she has here with us,” she said.
Dressed in clown outfits and as popular comic book characters such as Hulk and Black Panther, the parade’s participants sang along to popular local parang soca and Christmas music as they moved along the Savannah.
Grant-a-Wish’s founder Elizabeth Gordon said to date it has granted 48 wishes to children who are terminally ill or suffering from life-threatening illnesses.
Dr Curt Bodkyn, paediatric oncologist at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, she said, gives approval for the children whose wishes are granted.
Sunday’s parade saw over 200 participants with people and their children lining the parade’s route to look on. The parade was headed by Zalayhar Hassanali, wife of late president Noor Hassanali, in a red Mercedes-Benz vehicle.
“Mrs Hassanali has supported us over the years. We have had the mounted branch police. They have supported us over the years..we have had corporate support.”
The foundation’s volunteers, composed of high school, university, primary school students, also learn from the parade's values.
“The parade is also a teaching institution in two ways. Giving back to the community, community service as well as teaching Broadway because within this whole scenario, Caribbean Theatre Productions, we do excerpts from Broadway. And today we are going to be doing Mary Poppins, Beauty and the Beast among others.”
She said it brings all of TT together.
The foundation was established in 2006 and grants wishes to children from three to 17 years who suffer with cancer but other life-threatening diseases.
“At the end of the day with everything, the economy, all the crime and negativity that TT has attracted, it is good just to do something positive and bring back the positive vibes in the country. That is why we took it upon ourselves to do this and just bring more joy and laughter,” Christopher Gordon, one of the foundation’s directors said.