GROTON - The family of a 5-year-old girl born with a chromosomal anomaly that makes it impossible for her walk or talk, was granted a wish this weekend from the Make-A-Wish Foundation - the Vermont chapter's 500th wish. Gifts included a comfortable living room set Riley Ketchum can enjoy with her family.

Previous to getting the new furniture, as well as new furnishings and adaptive toys for her bedroom, Riley had been unable, in the family's new home, to spend time outside her bedroom with her family as there was not a safe resting place for her on which to recline.

Saturday, volunteer wish granters Hattie Johnson of Winooski, who is also the South Burlington charity's director of development, along with wish granter Amelia Chapman, delivered the official wish, though the furnishings were put in place earlier.

They brought balloons and more treats for Riley and her family, which includes three younger sisters, twins Kendyl and Kailyn and Adison, along with mom and dad, Bethany and T.J., who met in high school at Blue Mountain Union High School.

Darlene Daniels, the girls' grandmother, was helping get everyone ready for the wish delivery, as the girls excitedly raced around, in matching pink outfits, with Riley sporting bright pink for the special occasion. Riley was not diagnosed with the chromosomal anomaly until last year, when the family returned to Vermont from living in Baltimore, said Bethany.

They returned to be closer to family, and Riley was diagnosed and has been receiving care for her health conditions at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. It was there that someone suggested they seek a wish for Riley.

"She's been pretty sick," said Bethany. In March, Riley had taken a turn for the worse and they came close to losing her. "She pulled through," said Bethany. They said they decided after the last really tough spell, and given Riley's suppressed immune system, not to make a special trip as their wish, a more common wish granted, but instead to focus on something that would make Riley's quality of life and comfort in her home better.

Of the new living room, her swing, and all the other things the family now has in place, Bethany said, "It's great, she loves it," referring to the swing in her room. "She used to swing all the time when she was little, but she got too big." Now, Riley has a swing in her room, right near her hospital bed, and in the living room, the padded chaise portion of their nice new comfy couch is where mom, dad and Riley snuggle up with the three younger daughters always bouncing nearby.

"Having a child with special needs is so incredibly hard, it's so encouraging and comforting to have an organization like Make-A-Wish that is there to help families know that someone cares," said Bethany. "It's amazing."

The Make-A-Wish staff went shopping with the Ketchums to pick out everything.

Make-A-Wish stated, "Riley received a new, supportive couch, along with shelves and tables for all of her medical supplies, an area rug perfect for her therapy, an air purifier to improve Riley's health, and finally, sensory items to give her added comfort and entertainment - perfect to use during family time."

"With great thanks, the Foundation spotlights UnitedHealthcare for adopting this wish," the foundation continued. "It is donations from generous organizations like this that finance these amazing wishes. We are so grateful to UnitedHealthcare for their dedication to our mission," said June Heston, CEO for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Vermont.

Of their part in granting Riley's wish, the company said, "We are very happy to see that UnitedHealthcare's national alliance with Make-A-Wish Foundation is able to provide Riley and her family with a family room that really works for the whole family," said Stephen Farrell, CEO, UnitedHealthcare of New England.

Make-A-Wish was founded in 1980 in Phoenix, Ariz., when a small group of people helped a special little boy achieve his wish to be a state trooper for a day. The 7-year-old was given a custom-made uniform, helmet, badge, and even a helicopter ride. The Vermont chapter of Make-A-Wish began in the fall of 1989. Vermont's first wish was a trip for 11-year-old Bonnie, who wanted to meet her favorite actors, Larry, Darryl and Darryl, on the Bob Newhart Show. For more information on helping the organization grant wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses, visit their Web site at, or call them at 802-864-9393.

On Saturday in Montpelier the state chapter will mark the occasion of the 500th granted wish.


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