A girl with a life-threatening illness has her wish to meet Howie Mandel granted by international children’s charity Star Wishes for Children and generous sponsors.
Nothing gets 7-year-old Cassandra – aka Cassie – down, not even her condition. She was born with her spinal column exposed, through a disorder called myelomeningocele, which is a form of spina bifida. Spina bifida causes significant problems including paralysis and a compromised immune system, which can lead to other life-threatening illnesses.
Because of this condition, Cassandra is unable to walk and relies solely on a wheelchair for mobility. Cassandra also suffers from hydrocephalus, a condition in which cerebrospinal fluid builds up in the skull, putting intense pressure on the brain. In order to relieve the pressure, Cassandra’s doctors implanted a shunt in her skull to help drain the fluid. Since the shunt was implanted, her doctors have had to surgically revise it three different times. Spina bifida has also caused Cassandra to have a neurogenic bladder, for which she suffered through a bladder augmentation surgery. This condition causes painful kidney stones that are constantly recurring.
Cassie’s mother, Theresa, said her little girl fell in love with Howie Mandel after watching America’s Got Talent for the first time. Since that day, Cassie has watched everything she can with Howie Mandel in it and she now proudly proclaims herself to be his number one fan. So, when given the chance to wish for anything she wanted, it came as no surprise that Cassie wanted to meet the famous comedian.
This chance to wish came about when Cassie’s grandmother referred her to international children’s charity Star Wishes for Children for the possibility to have her wish granted. After some paperwork, Caitlin’s wish was well on its way to being granted.
Cassie’s wish took place at the Chinook Winds Casino Resort, where Howie Mandel was performing. In addition to the meet-and-greet with Howie, Cassie and her family were also treated to accommodations at the Sea Horse Oceanfront Landing and the Hyatt Place Portland Airport/Cascade Station, dinners every evening, a visit to the Oregon Zoo and a trip to the Build-A-Bear Workshop to create her own special bear.
“It was amazing,” said Theresa of her daughter’s wish. “It could not have been any better than it was.”
Their first day in Portland saw them having a special visit to the Oregon Zoo, where Cassie was allowed to meet the zoo’s penguins face to face and even feed them their favorite fish. She was also given a chance to watch zoo staff feed and play with polar bears only a few feet away!
The next day was the big one, when Cassie would meet her hero, Howie Mandel. However, before the meeting, Cassie got to visit the Build-A-Bear Workshop in the Clackamas Town Center. There, she made a very special bear that she dressed in an outfit to match the one she was wearing to present to her hero. She also made a recording of herself saying, “I love you, Howie!” so that he could remember how special he made Cassie feel when he granted her wish.
After making the bear, a limousine picked Cassie and her family up and drove them over to the Chinook Winds Casino Resort, which made Cassie feel like a princess. At the resort, she went backstage and met Howie Mandel.
“I liked him before,” said Theresa of Howie. “But I love him now, knowing how happy he made Cassie.”
Upon seeing her idol right in front of her, Cassie just lit up.
“You are just so cute,” said Howie.
“I know,” replied Cassie.
“…and humble!” added Howie with a laugh. Cassie just grinned and grinned.
While they chatted, Cassie presented Howie with the special Build-A-Bear she created just for him, along with a little Shoulder Buddy for him to wear – which he loved and said he would try to wear during his next live appearance on TV. He also made a recording of himself saying, “Hi, Cassandra, this is Howie, and I love you.” After the meeting, Cassie and her family returned to Build-A-Bear to create a bear dressed like Howie so that they could put the recording in it; Cassie’s been hugging the bear ever since.
“She’s just absolutely blown away by this still,” said Theresa of Cassie. “She’s been grinning ever since he hugged her and she hasn’t stopped. She’s been on a permanent happy streak ever since.”
Star Wishes for Children would like to thank the following for helping to make Cassie’s wish extra special: Howie Mandel; Budget Rent A Car; Oregon Zoo; Hyatt Place Portland Airport/Cascade Station; IHOP; Build-A-Bear Workshop; Sea Horse Oceanfront Lodging; and Chinook Winds Casino Resort.