Disney and Make-A-Wish Join Forces to Create Magical Disney Experience for Wish Children in the UK

­­The Walt Disney Company UK & Ireland, Make-A-Wish® UK, and The Kentown Wizard Foundation joined forces to create a unique Disney experience in the UK, called A Disney Wish, for children living with critical illness. In September 2022, Hoar Cross Hall in Staffordshire hosted 227 families for a magical three-day immersive experience for children living with life-limiting or life-threatening illnesses; many of whom are unable to travel abroad due to their conditions.

Hoar Cross Hall transformed into an enchanted manor where Make-A-Wish families took part in a variety of incredible Disney activities, including a Winnie the Pooh and Friends picnic; Jedi Training Academy; a Mickey and Minnie Bedtime Story; a Frozen Sing-Along; Story Time with Belle in the Grand Ballroom; and a Marvel Training Initiative featuring Marvel Super Heroes.

Keen to get involved and lend their support to the wish families by volunteering at the event, several celebrities joined the Disney Wish experience. Actor and musician Matt Willis; model and TV star Millie Mackintosh; and TV presenter and Strictly Come Dancing star Helen Skelton were among the stars spending time with the children and their families, hearing more about their stories, and helping to make sure they experienced all the Mickey magic and fairy-tale fun.

Fraser, six, visited Hoar Cross Hall with parents Andrew and Ali. At just 17-months-old the family was given the devastating news that Fraser had an extremely rare illness called B Cell lymphoma with Burkitts MYC gene rearrangement. At three-years-old Fraser was taken for a bone marrow transplant and had just a five per cent survival rate.

James, seven, from Denbighshire in Wales, was one of the children looking forward to his visit and could not wait to have some swash-buckling fun with his favourite Disney characters, Peter Pan, and Captain Hook. James lives with Down’s Syndrome and is in remission after three years of chemotherapy to fight Leukaemia.

Catherine, James’ mum, said: “[We’re really looking forward to] seeing James be fully able to interact and engage, and to get involved with everything alongside children his own age. He has always been on the outside of things, only able to interact or engage so much because of his condition. It’s a great way for us to mark the end of his treatment and look forward to the future.”

Freddie, four, who has a rare chromosomal syndrome, attended A Disney Wish with parents Emma and Laura. Freddie’s condition is life-limiting and, although it is anticipated he won’t ever talk, Emma and Laura hope he might walk one day.

Deborah Armstrong, Senior Vice President and Country Manager, Disney UK & Ireland, said: “Following the success and impact of last year’s event, I’m so pleased we are able to work with Make-A-Wish and Kentown Wizard again to create another magical experience for hundreds of children and their families who are living with serious illness. The joy and magic of a Disney Wish, featuring meet and greets with iconic Disney characters and unique interactive experiences, helps families create priceless memories they can cherish for a lifetime. Our biggest UK Wish event to date, being able to create even more Moments that Matter is so inspiring, it’s a personal highlight in the Disney calendar.”

Make-A-Wish Chief Executive, Jason Suckley, said: “Over 60,000 children in the UK are living with a critical illness, and may not be able to travel abroad due to the limits of their condition – so understand that every day is precious and some of these wishes are time critical. We’re absolutely delighted that over 200 children will be able to have their wishes come true by experiencing the magic of Disney right here in the UK, providing light and joy right when they and their families need it most. We are extremely grateful to Disney and to The Kentown Wizard Foundation for making this event possible.”

Margaret Ingram, Chief Executive of The Kentown Wizard Foundation, said: “A Disney Wish was conceived in 2021 at a time when the global pandemic was severely impacting all our lives and in particular the lives of seriously ill children. We were privileged to witness first-hand how this unique event brought laughter, joy, and Disney magic to 140 children and their families at a time when they needed it most and so we had no hesitation when providing funding to make A Disney Wish 2022 possible. Reimagining the Disney experience in a central UK location is a unique concept which allows many more seriously ill children to make precious memories with their families. We are proud to be part of this collaboration and to witness again, the impact of a Disney Wish.”

To find out more about how wishes can help, visit make-a-wish.org.uk or follow the charity on social media: Twitter (@makeawishuk), Instagram (makeawishuk), and TikTok (@makeawishuk).