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Make-A-Wish Grants Wish To Make Indiana Dunes State Park Accessible To Everyone

Make-A-Wish Ohio, Kentucky & Indiana is dedicated to granting life-changing wishes to children with critical illnesses. Global Link Distribution and its employees in Elkhart are proud to support Make-A-Wish in northern Indiana. If you’re interested in helping grant a child’s wish, contact the local chapter toll-free at 877-872-2756.

By: Make-A-Wish Ohio, Kentucky & Indiana + Global Link

Nadene Amouri never thought she’d be a wish kid. Not even while she was battling cancer.

She was winning the fight against her cancer at the time she was approached about having a wish granted. Nadene and her mom, Sonya, assumed that Make-A-Wish was only for children who were terminal, so they initially declined to have a wish granted, opting instead to let a family less fortunate than theirs receive a wish.

Her social worker, Beth, explained that Make-A-Wish is not a last-wish organization and that she could use it to give back to the community. That’s when Nadene said, “yes,” to her wish, because she knew it was her opportunity to do something exceptional.


Sonya found out her daughter had a rare form of Hodgkin’s lymphoma three days after Nadene’s 15th birthday. Sonya recalls getting the call at 1:37 p.m. on a dark, gloomy, and rainy Wednesday. She was driving to pick her kids up from school, focused on her normal afternoon routine.

“It felt like somebody punched me in the stomach and took all the air out of my chest,” Sonya says. She had to pull over. “I couldn’t think. I couldn’t process. Just two days earlier we were talking about getting her driving permit and what driver’s ed class to take. My next thought was: ‘Oh my god. How am I going to tell her she has cancer?’ ”

Though Nadene had been dealing with a mystery illness for about a year, Sonya didn’t expect a cancer diagnosis. Doctors performed blood tests for everything from cat scratch fever to allergies related to pets, mold, or construction. Her results came back normal every time and no cancer was detected.

Over Labor Day weekend, Nadene complained about a swollen and painful neck, so her father took her to the ER to get checked out. By the end of the night a small ball had formed on the left side of her neck, under her chin. By January, it had grown so big that it had to be removed.

Nadene’s cells were sent to two labs for testing — they appeared strange, but not cancerous. As a precaution, her cells were passed on to a lab in Maryland that specializes in rare diseases and cancers. That lab discovered the cells were a rare form of Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“When you hear that you don’t have cancer many, many times you get in a thought process that: ‘Okay, I’m going to be fine. Everything is okay; it’s just a small setback.’ “ Nadene says. “Just to hear you have cancer, you get taken back, you’re just speechless and you’re just thinking: “How could this happen? Did I do something wrong?”


Sonya didn’t tell Nadene she had cancer right away. When they went to the hospital and started passing signs that said hematology and oncology, Nadene questioned what they meant. It was then that Sonya told her daughter about her diagnosis.

“I broke down in tears and she’s just, like, hugging me,” Sonya says. “She said: ‘No Mommy, don’t be mad, don’t cry. God doesn’t give us more than we can handle. Remember? You taught us that, right? We’re going to get through this.’”

A little over a month after Nadene’s diagnosis, the U.S. went into COVID-19 lockdowns. Not only was her world turned upside down because of her cancer diagnosis, her lowered immunity meant she couldn’t see her friends — and neither could her sisters.

During radiation therapy, Nadene had her setbacks when the treatments felt like too much for her, but she kept a positive attitude the entire time. In fact, she and her sisters found ways to help others at the hospital.

Where Nadene received treatments, there’s a toy chest that children can pull from whenever they come in for appointments. Nadene and her sisters noticed that the toy bin was running low, so they decided — on their own — to use their own money and buy a bunch of small toys to fill it up. Now it’s become a tradition for Sonya’s children to buy toys for the bins.

“I’m beyond proud of (my sisters),” Sonya says. “For thinking of others and finding little ways themselves that they can do something minor to help out.”

By October, Nadene was nearing the end of her chemotherapy, and she was looking forward to having a bell ceremony. Her family planned a huge party to celebrate the end of her radiation therapy. But COVID put a stop to that.

“They were banning get-togethers and things like that,” Sonya says. “Unfortunately, her party for her bell ceremony got canceled, which was hard for her because that was her main goal at the end of chemo. She was looking forward to having a big party to celebrate being healthy again, with her friends and family.”

After months of intense infusion sessions, some which took as long as eight hours, Nadene was heartbroken.

“It was a letdown to me,” she says. “I was like: ‘I still have Make-A-Wish, I still have the ramp I can look forward to. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, it’ll be something to look forward to after treatment.’ ”


Originally, Nadene wished to build a handicap-accessible playground in Downtown South Bend for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Unfortunately, Make-A-Wish wasn’t able to secure all of the permitting and licensing to build the playground.

Nadene needed to pivot her wish, but she wasn’t sure what she should do. Sonya was scrolling through Facebook when Nadene noticed a post that her mother’s friend made of her and her son — who has cerebral palsy — at an indoor waterpark.

Nadene asked her mother why he was at the pool and not at the beach on such a nice, beautiful day. Sonya explained that there was no handicap access at the beaches in the area. At that moment, Nadene knew what she wanted to do with her wish. Two weeks later at her next appointment, Nadene told her social worker that she wished to create a wheelchair-accessible beach path at Indiana Dunes State Park.

It took about a year before construction was able to start on the ramp installation at The Dunes, but the project kept Nadene going and gave her hope.

“Make-A-Wish has been incredible to our family. They kept getting spirits up when she was down about everything because of COVID, and they encouraged her so much,” Sonya says. “Giving [Nadene] a wish gave her something to look forward to when COVID and cancer took away her party and took away her ability to be with her friends and essentially ruined her high school years.”

Sonya explains that Nadene’s dream to do something for others has been important, and they’re both thankful for Make-A-Wish’s role in helping it become a reality. While Nadene’s wish focused on something special to her — giving back to the community — the wish of a family to visit Walt Disney World through Make-A-Wish is no less important, Sonya says.

“Some of these families would never have been able to afford something like [going to Disney] and to make memories like that before their child passes or their child isn’t able to do it,” she says. “[Make-A-Wish] gives hope to families.”

Nadene’s wish to create handicap access to The Dunes led to a ramp and ADA mats being installed on the beach. The wheelchair- and pedestrian-friendly mats are made from a rigid, non-slip material and reach across the main and west parking lots, across the sand, and up to the water.

A dedication ceremony was hosted for the mats in May 2022 for the fully installed mats. But visitors were so excited to use the mats that they used them throughout the installation process, according to park officials. This past summer, the son of Sonya’s friend, who was the catalyst for Nadene’s wish, also used the mats.

“My faith has always taught me to give back to others and give back to my community first and always,” Nadene says. “This just made me cry. It makes me cry every time I go to the beach and I see somebody who is able to use the ramp and [I know] I made a huge impact on their lives.”

Nadene’s wish continues to give back, in fact. She’s working in partnership with the Friends of the Dunes, who have been able to raise around $100,000 to add more mats and adding beach wheelchairs at the park.


Though her wish was granted, Make-A-Wish Ohio, Kentucky & Indiana wasn’t finished with Nadene.

This past November, Nadene and Sonya were invited to the Make-A-Wish America National Conference in Florida. Nadene was a guest speaker and talked about the event’s theme of reminding the foundation why it does what it does.

Unbeknownst to Nadene and her mother, everyone in the audience had a bell hidden. After her speech, the audience rang their bells in unison to give Nadene back the bell ceremony that was robbed of her due to COVID.

“Any cancer patient knows that getting to ring that bell at the end, saying you’re done. Saying you made it. Saying you fought through hell and back is really important,” Sonya says through tears. “These people were so thoughtful and so caring — that a room of 700 complete strangers didn’t hesitate to get a bell and stand up and applaud her and ring it for her so she could have a ceremony.”

Sonya is adamant in her praise of  Make-A-Wish and the hope that it gives to families. Even a simple donation of a dollar can add up to a life-changing transformation.

Nadene, now a senior at Penn High School, can’t wait for the last bell of the school year to ring. She’s looking forward to studying nursing at Southwestern Michigan College and plans to eventually become a nurse practitioner. Through a battle with cancer during the extreme pressure of COVID lockdowns, her positivity and servant’s heart pushes her forward.

“I believe that God doesn’t give you more than what you can handle, so by keeping a positive mindset that this thing — this negative setback — won’t be forever, that there will always be a positive outcome to it, will help you get through,” Nadene says. “After cancer I was able to help others. I would go through the pain of cancer so many times just to make other people happy.”

You can help make more wishes come true for children in northern and northwestern Indiana. Help restore hope with a wish today! To learn more, visit the website for Make-A-Wish Ohio, Kentucky & Indiana.

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How A Wish Unites A Community – 95.3 MNC November 2, 2023 at 1:47 pm

[…] Ohio, Kentucky & Indiana granted her wish to build an accessible ramp at Indiana Dunes National Park. Volunteers created a pathway and ramps […]

Make-A-Wish Ohio, Kentucky & Indiana Celebrates 40th Anniversary In April – 95.3 MNC November 2, 2023 at 1:49 pm

[…] The first wish granted by the Make-A-Wish Ohio, Kentucky & Indiana chapter was for a child to go to Walt Disney World Resort, which remains a popular wish to this day. Make-A-Wish grants more than just Disney wishes, though. Nadene Amouri from Granger wished to create wheelchair access to Indiana Dunes State Park. […]


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