From now on, Sofia Allen might be better known as, “Sofia the First.”
That was what Pixie Dust Wishes Executive Director Jaimie Miller called the soon-to-be second-grade student Saturday morning when it was announced she and her family were the first-ever recipients of a trip to Disney World through the organization.
“To be honest, I’m still kind of in shock,” Sofia’s mother, Lindsey Allen, said. “We weren’t expecting this, but it’s really exciting. With any child you have ups and downs of raising them, but to have this kind of support from the community and family and friends is really special.”
Sofia Allen nominated by her former teacher from Gray’s Woods Elementary School
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Gray’s Wood Elementary School first-grade teacher Jennifer Lawrence said in her nomination letter that she wanted Sofia to experience a trip to Disney World while she still has her vision.
Sofia has a condition that could eventually leave her permanently blind.
Pixie Dust Wishes is a State College-based nonprofit that provides trips to Disney World for children with special needs and their families. Travel, lodging and more are funded through the initiative.
Miller was inspired to create the nonprofit by her 10-year-old daughter, Emma Miller, who has Down syndrome, and also loves Disney.
“She’s the reason why I do this and why it’s so important,” Miller said. “It’s providing wishes to children, but at the same time helping provide awareness about disabilities, when there can be so many misconceptions.”
Since its inception in January, the nonprofit has raised about $20,000, Miller said.
Race to Neverland 5K and one-mile walk was held Saturday morning at Tudek Park
A Race to Neverland 5K and 1-mile walk Saturday morning at Tom Tudek Memorial Park raised funds to help benefit trips to Disney World for other eligible children, Miller said.
“We hope to make this an annual fundraiser — maybe our biggest,” Miller said.
By early Saturday, about 170 people were already preregistered for the event.
“Going into this, I was told to expect about 20 to 30 people in the first year, but it’s exceeded all expectations,” Miller said.
The event also included children’s activities, such as ring toss with rope and Captain Hook hooks; crafts such as making hooks and fairy wands; face painting and more. Sue Paterno, an advocate for special needs individuals, even made an appearance at the kick-off event.
I’ve gotten more from people with special needs than anyone else in this world. It’s made me so proud and so happy
“I’ve gotten more from people with special needs than anyone else in this world,” Paterno said. “It’s made me so proud and so happy.”
Participants were also encouraged to dress up.
Mike and Terrie Jones dressed as Mickey and Minnie Mouse. The couple said their participation was inspired by their grandson Corbin, who was born with Down syndrome.
“We take for granted a lot of things until he came into this world,” Terrie Jones said. “They live out of state, so we don’t get to see them as much as we’d like but want to do our part in helping this community and giving back to so many others like Corbin.”