“So, Hailey, what do you think so far?”
Eyes wide and smile bright, third grader Hailey Bretzius enjoyed every minute of her wish-fulfillment day at Burns Park Elementary School, staying humble and gracious throughout.
“This is everybody’s big day today, not just me. For Make-a-Wish, for the camera guy, for my friends, for my family…”
Hailey was diagnosed with a lymphatic malformation at birth, and has undergone multiple surgeries throughout her childhood. As part of the Make-a-Wish foundation, providing hope, strength and joy to children with life-threatening medical conditions, best-selling author of Wonder, R.J. Palacio visited Hailey’s school, read excerpts from her novel, signed books for the children, and even played on the playground with Hailey and her friends. Students also got a chance to read Palacio their own stories about acts of kindness, a virtue that is a recurring theme in her children’s novel, Wonder.
“It’s so great to just take those moments to celebrate kindness,” Palacio said, in awe and appreciation after the assembly.
“When given the choice between being right, or being kind, choose kind.” This quote from Wonder is openly one of Hailey’s favorites, and a principle that she lives by. Hailey volunteers for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders, and one of her earlier wish incarnations was to go around handing out free books to schools in the area. Make-a-Wish encouraged her to “think bigger.”
Think bigger she did. Hailey bonded instantly with Palacio, giving her a very thorough tour of the school and introducing her to teachers and friends.
Hailey can identify with Palacio’s work because she and the book’s protagonist, Auggie, have something in common: they both have facial cranial differences.
“We don’t all look alike, talk alike, think alike,” Palacio told the students of Burns Park Elementary, echoing the message of her novel. Wonder so wonderfully teaches children to embrace differences, to be kind to everyone, and that every child, everywhere, is a wonder.