Now here’s a girl with a heart as big as her smile.
Hailey Bretzius, a 10-year-old Burns Park Elementary School student, received a wish from the Make-a-Wish Foundation. As reports, more than than anything, she wished to share her favorite book, Wonder and its message of kindness with her school.
“It’s the first wish I’ve had that the child was thinking of other people,” said Erin Osgood, a volunteer with the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Michigan.
On a recent school day, her wish was granted when author R.J. Palacio came by to visit the Ann Arbor, Michigan school. Bretzius was able to take Palacio on a school tour and play with her during recess. During a school assembly, the author spoke about the book’s message.
Wonder is a novel about a 10-year-old boy named Auggie who, like Bretzius, is born with facial disfigurations. Despite undergoing 27 facial surgeries, people still stare at him and he is teased and bullied by school children. The book’s overall theme is to “choose kind” in our daily interactions with others.
It’s that message that Bretzius wanted to impart with her schoolmates.
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According to the report, Bretzius has a lymphatic malformation that causes a benign tumor to grow between the muscles on the left side of her face. She’s undergone multiple surgeries since childhood to remove parts of the tumor. While the Make-A-Wish Foundation grants wishes to children with terminal diseases, Bretzius’s doctors recommended her to the foundation during a recent surgery despite the fact that her disease is currently non-life threatening.
Palacio told NPR that Wonder was inspired by her own kids’ encounter with a little girl with a facial deformity. They were sitting next to the child at an ice cream store, and Palacio’s 3-year-old reacted in fear. The author decided to leave the store to avoid making the girl uncomfortable. She, however, found herself really angry with the way she responded.
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“What I should have done is simply turned to the little girl and started up a conversation and shown my kids that there was nothing to be afraid of,” she said. “But instead what I ended up doing was leaving the scene so quickly that I missed that opportunity to turn the situation into a great teaching moment for my kids. And that got me thinking a lot about what it must be like to … have to face a world every day that doesn’t know how to face you back.”
Palacio’s book, which was published in 2012, is a New York Times bestseller and has been celebrated by the readers of all ages and backgrounds — especially those in the craniofacial community. When just a tiny percentage of books feature children with disabilities, it’s clear more books like Wonder are needed to teach us to accept and embrace our differences.
Here, some photos of Palacio’s visit: