Make-A-Wish Recipient Sends Help to Victims of Hurricane Maria



By Tim Pompey

When you think of Make-A-Wish, you usually think of seriously ill children who use their imagination to make a very special wish for themselves.

But in the case of local Ventura resident Zelaya Guevara, her wish originated from news reports she heard about Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. When Zelaya was given the opportunity to wish, she requested to assist victims devastated by the disaster.

Eight-year-old Zelaya Guevara made a wish to help launch a campaign to provide food, water, and toys to victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico

Zelaya’s wish was to give food and clean water to kids and families in Puerto Rico. She shared that she could go on a trip anytime but helping these families was more important.

“It was the pictures of kids sitting on counters, and parents standing in the gross water trying to keep them safe that made me sad and I wanted to help,” she said.

Even more important was a story about a child in Puerto Rico who suffered from leukemia. Eight-year-old Zelaya, now in remission, received six years of cancer treatments for a rare form of leukemia. The struggle of a fellow leukemia patient struck a chord. As Make-A-Wish Tri Counties Director of Wishes Melissa Remotti recounted:

“There was also a story on the news of a child in Puerto Rico with leukemia who was trying to get to a boat in order to get medication and was having trouble getting to the boat. So that impacted her as well.”

Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties Director of Wishes, Melissa Remotti, helps prepare boxes of donated toys to send to the children of hurricane survivors in Puerto Rico

To grant Zelaya’s wish, Make-A-Wish partnered with World Central Kitchen in Washington, D.C. to deliver the food and water to Puerto Rico. WCK has been helping disaster survivors since 2010. They are known locally for their work with the Thomas Fire victims, particularly at the benefit held at Plaza Park in downtown Ventura last winter. They’ve been active in Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria struck a year ago.

In addition, Make-A-Wish worked with members of the local community to add a toy drive as well. To their surprise, they received over 1,000 toys and are currently busy packing up boxes to ship them off to Puerto Rico. The toys were donated through support from local schools, businesses and the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department.

Now, as the first anniversary of Hurricane Maria approaches, it’s all coming together.

“The food, water and toys will all be delivered to a remote community center in Puerto Rico,” said Make-A-Wish Tri Counties Chief Executive Officer Pattie Mullins. “Each toy will include a tag that Zelaya has designed.”

Since Zelaya can’t travel or be in large crowds, Make-A-Wish will help her to connect with the community in Puerto Rico where the food, water, and toys will be delivered.

“Since she can’t be at the event in Puerto Rico, she will skype there so she can really feel like she’s a part of that experience,” said Mullins. “Hopefully she’ll have some families that will be able to talk to her and she’ll be able to see what’s happening.”

In the meantime, Zelaya has been very involved in the preparation.

“She has been here to the wish center and has been participating in every aspect of the wish that we can have her participate in,” Remotti stated.

At the end of this week, the toys will be sent to San Juan and then unpacked, tagged and assembled for distribution on Sept 22, 2018, the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria. The plan is to deliver the meals, toys and water to families and children in a rural area outside of the city of San Juan.

All of this is incredibly thoughtful for such a young wish recipient.

“She’s a pretty incredible little girl,” said Remotti. “She has a huge heart and is very empathetic to others—to children, to animals, to people. She wants to help everybody and everything.”

Mullins admits this is a rare event, but it does happen occasionally.

“For a wish recipient to give wishes to someone else is very rare,” Mullin noted. “We get one every couple of years. To have someone as young as Zelaya is very unique and special. She’s a phenomenal young person and it gives us hope for the future.”

“It makes me feel good that other people will feel good,” Zelaya said.

In addition, she wanted to deliver a message to the people of Puerto Rico: “Keep your head held high. You are never alone and I’m sending love to you always.”

For a distant country still struggling to get back on its feet, those words and the help they provide are what makes hope more than just an empty promise.

Photo Credits: Tim Pompey

Tim Pompey, a freelance writer who has done lots of local affairs and entertainment/cultural writing, lives in Oxnard. Tim is also a fiction writer (Facebook Page). You can learn about his books on

Mr. Pompey’s Newest Book:  Mrs. Parsley and the Tale of Mossel’s Farm

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