The crowd, the noise and the overall spectacle was a bit overwhelming.
As Abigail Abramowitz, age 4, gazed around the Overland High School gym, there was plenty to take in. Hundreds of cheering students in the stands raised a racket between performances by school band members and cheerleaders. Students and teachers dressed as wild animals danced across the hardwood, and Abbey was zipped to the makeshift stage at the end of the room in a miniature, remote-controlled convertible.
Abbey took it all in with an awed expression, shuffling among the crowds of well-wishers and clinging to a stuffed animal for comfort. She wasn't the only one who seemed overcome by the schoolwide celebration on Feb. 17, which capped Overland's Wish Week fundraiser. The event saw students, teachers and staff from Overland and its feeder schools uniting over a weeklong series of events to raise around $17,500 for Make-A-Wish Colorado to grant wishes for kids like Abby. Abbey’s wish is to go to San Diego and the experience will come after a difficult year.
A little more than a year ago, Abbey was diagnosed with germ cell teratoma, a form of cancer that demanded a difficult regimen of chemotherapy and treatment. Abbey, her parents Carrie and Marcus Abramowitz and the rest of her family have spent the past months in a draining life-and-death struggle, one that drew on all their reserves of determination and strength.
The struggle made the generosity of the Overland community all the more inspiring.
"I have no words to express what just took place. I'm overwhelmed by it all," Carrie Abramowitz said. "We didn't expect any of this. No words – really, I'm speechless."
Marcus Abramowitz offered a similar sentiment of gratitude and wonder as he addressed the entire school from the floor of the gym, holding Abbey's hand and stating simply, "We want to thank everyone for everything you've done."
That sentiment made the week of fundraising and hard work worthwhile for those who helped organize Overland's Wish Week activities. Katie Dorman, a senior and student body officer at the school, said the series of "Dress Up Days," school dinners and other events involved input and contributions from the entire community. Seeing the wowed reaction of Abbey and her family was reward enough for all of that sacrifice, Dorman said.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Dorman said.