As a Make-A-Wish Kid, who went on an amazing trip to Disney World back in 2013, and as a longtime Make-A-Wish Ambassador, Samantha has wanted to spread the joy that she felt to other children. Working with her father and longtime family friend Russel Okubo, owner of Aji Japanese Bistro in El Dorado Hills, Sammie has made just that happen for a number of local wish children.
Sammie was born with a rare bone disease that affects only hundreds of people across the globe. Because of that disease, she was made more susceptible to receiving cancer diagnoses in the future. She would be diagnosed with Osteosarcoma in 2012
Her wish, a trip to Walt Disney World Resort® granted in 2013, "changed her life forever" Sammie would say.
"It gave me a lot of meaning," Sammie said. "I realized I wanted to go support the other children dealing with these illnesses they don't deserve. So I started volunteering and in 2017 at St. Francis, my high school, and they asked me what's my dream job. I said I wanted to be a spokesperson for Make-A-Wish. The next week, they made me an official Make-A-Wish Ambassador."
Unfortunately, Sammie would suffer a second cancer diagnosis, this time, Rhabdomyosarcoma, while the world was in the midst of the pandemic. Just within the past few weeks, the aggressive form of cancer metastasized into her brain, leaving doctors with little recourse, admitting to Sammie and the Dacong family that her cancer was now terminal.
"My last request is to grant another wish for a child before I pass away," Sammie said, bravely through tears.
Sammie's story touched lives across the country, raising $174,150 in 2021, having raised the most money a wish family had ever done in one single fundraiser since Make-A-Wish America started keeping the data in 2013.
Sammie was able to grant a wish to fellow wish teen Leoni, who wished to stay near the beach. The two even got to meet on Zoom prior to Leoni heading off on her wish.
Sadly, Sammie passed away on July 1, 2021. After touching so many lives with her amazing heart and raising so much money to provide other children the same hope and joy she felt, her fundraising legacy continues through her family and friends.
Sammie believed in the power wishes had as medicine. Carry her torch and donate today to help make other children's wishes come true!