07

May

Girl With Cancer Has Koala Wish Granted

As a procession of pink flamingos marched by just a few feet away, 8-year-old Katie Higginbotham stood inside a cage at the Palm Beach Zoo eagerly anticipating her meet and greet with the adorable, furry and cuddly animal with the big, fluffy ears she and her family had flown more than 1,200 miles to see up close.

Katie, from Lavon, Texas, has been battling since she was diagnosed with pilocytic astrocytoma, a type of tumor on the brain stem, in October 2016.

Tabbitha Beckens, a keeper at the zoo, joined the family, answering questions and providing facts about the koalas.

“It was amazing because this is something she has wanted for quite a while now and it was nice to be able to be there, see her, and experience this with her, as a family,” Lori Higginbotham said.

The trip was a surprise to Katie, who found out about her soon-to-be adventure to Florida only on Thursday, despite both parents admitting that they nearly spilled the secret a few times.

“It’s been a lot for Mommy and I to keep it a secret, and I’m the world’s worst at keeping secrets, so I nearly ruined it a couple of times,” Rick Higginbotham said.

For the rest of their time in Florida, the Higginbothams are hoping to relax on the beach, sprinkle in some family photos and even take part in a sea turtle experience, making as many memories as they can.

“What was so great about this whole situation is making memories and pulling everything together in order to use what time we do have left to make her happy,” Rick said.

Katie was treated to a lunch in her honor at the zoo following her time with the two bears. Experiences like Tuesday, along with future trips that the family has planned, are helping to ensure that the family is making the most of their time with their daughter.

“It’s terrifying on one side because we know this is a dream that’s coming true, but we also know this may be one of the last trips that she takes,” said Rick. “We’re trying to make every little memory and capture every moment for her, and for us as well.”