Tripp Fowler is headed to The Most Magical Place on Earth. And the 5-year-old from Weatherford could use it.
On Tuesday, the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s North Texas chapter, along with hundreds of Tripp’s closest friends at Wright Elementary, surprised him when he learned he and his family were heading to Walt Disney World the next day.
After a moment of shyness, Tripp’s eyes lit up when he saw a video, straight from Rapunzel herself, saying that “she’d see him soon.”
“This is super exciting,” said Billy Fowler, Tripp’s father. “We wish we didn’t qualify for this opportunity, but this will give Tripp some great memories.”
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Tripp suffers from a congenital heart defect known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a birth defect that affects normal blood flow to the heart. As the baby develops during pregnancy, the left side of the heart does not form correctly.
Tripp has had three open-heart surgeries: the first when he was just 4 days old; the second at 6 months; and the third at 3 1/2. Along the way, he has suffered two strokes due to the disorder and seizures.
“He’ll always be facing the chance of heart failure,” Billy Fowler said. “Even with medical advances coming as far as they have, just to make it to 5 years old, he only had a 75 percent chance. This will be a lifelong thing.”
“But none of these obstacles have slowed him down,” said Marilyn Phillips, with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. “He’s a happy-go-lucky boy that finds the best in every situation.”
Phillips said it’s both humbling and inspiring to see a community come together to show its support. Tuesday was no different, as members of the Weatherford High School volleyball, football, basketball, softball, and baseball teams were on hand to show their support. They were joined by the cheerleaders, band and Blue Belles.
“Make-A-Wish grants a wish of children with life-threatening medical conditions, and enriches the human experience with hope, strength and joy ... and a little bit of normalcy in the lives of those that can use it,” Phillips said. “So many people think it has to be terminally ill children, and that isn’t the case. Many of these children grow to live healthy, productive lives.”
Every 38 minutes in the United States, a wish is being granted, according to Make-A-Wish. The North Texas chapter has awarded more than 671 wishes in 2017.