LEXINGTON — For Katie Jenkins a little magic is never too far away.
Like many others her age, the 18-year-old Rogers High School graduate loves playing video games, reading books and watching YouTube videos on her phone.
Jenkins has come much further than doctors thought she would after they diagnosed her with leukodystrophy as an infant.
“They told us when she was 9 months old she wouldn’t live to be 5, and here we are at 18,” said her mother, Melissa.
Jenkins’s high school science teacher connected her with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. In February, she received a visit from local wish granter Adam McCollum and his wife.
“We left there the night that we had first met her and we were like, ‘Wow — this girl is an inspiration,’” McCollum recalled. “We were very blessed to get to know her throughout the last 10 months or so.”
According to McCollum, wish granters take the time to get to know the recipients to determine their wish.
McCollum said it was easy to determine Jenkins’s wish. As a massive fan of Harry Potter, they knew she would have a magical time at Universal Studios — home to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter — as well as Disney World, SeaWorld and Cocoa Beach.
For Jenkins, it was the trip of a lifetime, and she couldn’t wait to go.
“The whole year she was excited, waiting for them to give the O.K. because with Make-A-Wish, it normally takes about nine or 10 months for a wish to be granted,” McCollum explained.
McCollum said it’s a common misconception that children have to be terminally ill to qualify for Make-A-Wish. He added it’s also more accessible than most people think.
“You don’t have to have a death sentence to get a wish granted,” he said. “There’s several kids in our community who have had wishes granted. The volunteers are local. It’s a local thing.”
Make-A-Wish held a surprise send-off party for Jenkins in September at Godfather’s Pizza in Florence, just a few days before she departed on her weeklong trip.
“You could tell she had an entire community around her because she had her teachers from school that came to the party, she had family, she had friends, her aides and stuff,” McCollum said.
“The whole back half of the restaurant was full of people who had come to surprise her. We did a Harry Potter-themed reveal party, where we had Harry Potter cakes and all that other stuff. It was fun.”
Jenkins brought several family members with her to Florida. They stayed at Give Kids the World Village, a nonprofit resort for children with critical illnesses and their families. It was decked out in Jenkins’s favorite color — purple — and had plenty of ice cream.
“That was my favorite part about the village,” Jenkins said, laughing.
At Universal Studios, Jenkins said she enjoyed getting a wand, wearing a Hogwarts robe, drinking pumpkin juice and butterbeer, and seeing the Knight Bus.
She also loved watching the penguins at SeaWorld.
“It was fun,” she said.
McCollum said Make-A-Wish is dependent on donations, and local wish granters to make it possible for kids like Jenkins to have these experiences.
“We’ve got several that we’ve been able to work with over the last few years,” he said. “Katie’s been special, though.”
Now, Jenkins is back to enjoying her hobbies and planning for her next step.
“She’s talking about doing some online classes for college, but she wanted to kind of wait a year before doing that,” Melissa said. “She’s wanting to work at GameStop.
“We just want to thank Make-A-Wish and Give Kids the World Village for this opportunity,” she added. “It was awesome.”