Gabriel has dreamed of a trip to the Australian outback since watching the film Crocodile Dundee while recovering from treatment for the Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia he was diagnosed with two years ago.
The Year 1 student at St Fiacre’s Catholic Primary Leichhardt had his wish granted by The Starlight Children’s Foundation today at a special celebration held at the school with students, teachers, and his family.
Gabe’s is the foundation’s 9,000th wish. He was surprised with a personal video message from Paul Hogan in character as Mick Dundee. The actor gave Gabe advice on where to spot the most crocodiles during his family trip to the Northern Territory, which begins on September 20.
Gabriel loves this school. They allowed him to find his identity when he was just a kid who was always in hospital.
Gabe’s mother Marshia said the best part of the trip would be to see her son, who is now in remission, experience a heartfelt wish.
“Every time he watches Crocodile Dundee he’s enthralled by the outback,” she said. “He just loves the idea of that freedom and that vastness; the fact that it exists and that you could go to a place like that.
“To see that come to life and to see him empowered by it, because illness is so disempowering, is really lovely. He’s very much in control in leading us into this adventure.”
Marshia thanked both the Starlight Foundation and school for their support. “We’ve had a really enriching experience,” she said. “Gabriel loves this school and for the school community to have embraced us is something that will always be very special to us. They allowed him to find his identity when he was just a kid who was always in hospital.
“He came here and they embraced him. There was no talk about the fact that he looked so different, or that he appeared than disappeared and went back to hospital. When he wasn’t here they would reach out – either send emails or packages, or they would make iMovies and send them to him. For a child to receive things like that when in isolation is something really special.”
Starlight Children’s Foundation chief executive Louise Baxter said Gabe’s wish was a remarkable milestone for Starlight’s wish-granting program. Last year more than 500 wishes were granted.
“I hope Gabe and his family will love the adventure they have ahead of them and create beautiful family memories to share together for years to come,” she said.
The wish was made possible with the support of Virgin Australia, Northern Territory Tourism, and local businesses.
Principal Jan Heyworth said it was a privilege to share the experience as Gabe’s wish was granted.
“Children belong to their own immediate family, but they also belong to the school family and we look after one another – when we’re sad and when we’re happy, when we’re sick and when we’ve got something to celebrate,” she said.
“This wonderful day is a great tribute to faith, to hope, and to the courage of Gabe and his family. We were privileged to be part of that and grateful for the wonderful work that the Starlight Foundation does, particularly for Gabe and for all children who are sick.”