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Trip to Calif. zoo will be dream come true for Conley, 9

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By Sharon Graves

By SHARON GRAVES

The News-Democrat

Kendall Conley, daughter of Mark and Cydney Conley of Carrollton, will be winging her way toward her wish at the San Diego Zoo during her Christmas vacation.

She and her family found out this week that she has been granted a special behind-the-scenes tour of the famed zoo by the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Kendall was an infant when she received a heart transplant. She became eligible for a wish through the program years ago, but her parents didn’t see the need at the time because she had always done so well.

However, recently, she spent weeks in Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati recovering from a nearly fatal bout with the flu and severe sepsis. She was on life support and kidney dialysis, and suffered pneumonia in both lungs, as well as an infection in her blood, according to a journal her mother kept on Caringbridge.com.

The first prognosis for Kendall’s recovery was not good, but the fight in the 9-year-old kept amazing doctors, nurses and family.

Carroll County responded to the plight of the child and her family with prayers and notes of encouragement, her mother said.

“We couldn’t have asked for more care and prayers,” Cydney said. “It’s good to come from a small town.”

So, this time though when the Make-A-Wish offer was extended again to Kendall while she was in the hospital, her parents decided to pursue it..

Loaded with gifts of craft supplies for Kendall, two volunteers from the Louisville Chapter of the foundation visited the Conley’s home on Kings Ridge Road to find out what her heart’s desire is. She told them she wants to be a zookeeper or a veterinarian.

“Kendall chose the San Diego Zoo because of their work with the Cheetah Ambassador Program,” Cydney said. “They pair an infant cheetah with a puppy to help them grow.”

“Kendall will get the VIP treatment with behind the scene privileges the average person wouldn’t get,” Darla Chezem of the Louisville chapter of Make-A-Wish said. “She will probably get to pet and feed some animals, but I’m not really sure what it will all entail because the San Diego chapter will make all the arrangements.”

The two volunteers who did the initial interview will stay in contact with Kendall throughout the whole process Chezrem explained.

“The volunteers are extremely important to do what we do,” Chezrem said. “We have 120 for the state of Kentucky.”

The Make-A-Wish Foundation is a nonprofit organization and is always looking for volunteers, monetary donations or corporate sponsors. An unusual way people often give to the foundation is to donate frequent-flyer miles, according to Sophie Morton of the Columbus, Ohio, office.

“We depend on donations and several fund-raisers a year,” Morton said. “We couldn’t do it [grant wishes] without our volunteers. We are always looking for Wish-Granters.”

Wish-granters are volunteers who visit the homes of seriously ill children to determine what the child’s wish is and if the wish can be granted, Morton explained. To find out more about being a volunteer or donor, visit the Louisville chapter’s Web site at www.makeawishky.org.

Kendall will be 10 in December, when she and her parents and her brother Kyle will fly to California for a visit to the famed zoo. Her mother said she is recuperating well and will be entering Judy Kemper’s fourth-grade class at Cartmell Elementary School in the fall.

Kendall Conley, daughter of Mark and Cydney Conley will be winging her way toward her wish at the San Diego Zoo during her Christmas vacation.

Kendall received a heart transplant as an infant and recently had a nearly fatal bout with the flu and severe sepsis. Kendall was on life support, kidney dialysis, had pneumonia in both lungs and an infection in her blood, according to a journal her mother kept on caringbridge.com.

Kendall spent weeks in Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio, making baby-steps in her recovery. The first prognosis for Kendall’s recovery was not good, but the fight in the 9 year-old kept amazing doctors, nurses and family.

Carroll County responded to the plight of the child and her family with prayers and notes of encouragement. “We couldn’t have asked for more care and prayers,” Cydney said. “It’s good to come from a small town.”

Kendall was eligible for the Make-A-Wish program years earlier, but her family did not see the need since Kendall had done so well for so long after the heart transplant, Cydney explained. This time though when the Wish was offered at the hospital, both parents thought it would be a good idea to pursue.

The Louisville chapter of the Make a Wish Foundation sent two volunteers to Kendall’s home on Kings Ridge Rd. recently where they interviewed her and found out about her desire to be a zookeeper. The volunteers brought craft supplies to Kendall, who loves to craft and a football to her big brother Kyle.

The volunteers interviewed Kendall and found out about her desire to be a zookeeper or a veterinarian when she grows up, her mom explained.

“Kendall chose the San Diego zoo because of their work with the Cheetah Ambassador Program,” Cydney said. “They pair an infant cheetah with a puppy to help them grow.”

“Kendall will get the VIP treatment with behind the scene privileges the average person wouldn’t get,” Darla Chezem of the Louisville chapter of Make-A-Wish said. “She will probably get to pet and feed some animals, but I’m not really sure what it will all entail because the San Diego chapter will make all the arrangements.”

The two volunteers who did the initial interview will stay in contact with Kendall throughout the whole process Chezrem explained. “The volunteers are extremely important to do what we do,” Chezrem said. “We have 120 for the state of Kentucky.”

The Make-A-Wish Foundation is a non-profit organization and is always looking for volunteers, monetary donations or corporate sponsors. An unusual way people often give to the foundation is in the way of donating frequent flyer miles, according to Sophie Morton of the Columbus, Ohio office.

“We depend on donations and several fund-raisers a year,” Morton said. “We couldn’t do it [grant wishes] without our volunteers.” “We are always looking for Wish-Granters.”

Wish-granters are volunteers who visit the homes of seriously ill children to determine what the child’s wish is and if the wish can be granted, Morton explained. There are many ways someone can aid this program by going to the Louisville website www.makeawishky.org and going to the donation section.

Kendall will be 10 in December when she and her parents and her brother Kyle will fly to California for a visit to the famed zoo. She is recuperating well and will be entering the fourth grade at Cartmell Elementary in Miss Kemper’s class.