Local teen’s dream comes true through Make-A-Wish
A parade of law enforcement vehicles and classic cars bounced down Coast Village Road in Montecito on Saturday as part of a Make-A-Wish effort to honor local teen Carmelo Bisquera.
The caravan of cars passed by the Montecito Bank and Trust, where Carmelo and his family waved to dozens of colorful low-riding cars, Teslas, firetrucks and police vehicles.
The parade of cars was a part of a newly formed Make-A-Wish Hope Patrol, which provides a socially distanced way for family and community members to celebrate kids and their granted wishes.
Carmelo, who was raised in Santa Barbara and now lives in San Luis Obispo, was born with a rare endocrine condition known as hypopituitarism. The disorder causes an underactive pituitary gland, which caused Carmelo to be born legally blind and under the care of doctors since the day of his birth. He was also later diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
Carmelo’s mother, Elena Bisquera, said her son was in disbelief at all of the fanfare and gifts surrounding him on Saturday.
“I haven’t seen him smile like this in a long time,” Ms. Bisquera told the News-Press. “For me, it’s an amazing experience to see him be happy.”
Not long ago, Ms. Biquera contacted the Make-A-Wish chapter that serves Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties to ask if her 17-year-old son could qualify for a wish. She said it’s a misconception that only children with terminal illnesses can receive a wish, but children with chronic illnesses also qualify.
With a love for anime and video games, Carmelo’s first choice for a wish was a trip to Japan.
While the Tri-County Make-A-Wish foundation initially approved this wish, COVID-19 travel restrictions caused the trip to be canceled. But the organization found another way to properly honor the teen: A brand new, state-of-the-art gaming setup.
The gaming system, complete with a brand new Maingear BOOST computer, gaming chair, a new headset and GameStop gift certificate, was a dream come true for the teen, who has a desire to eventually attend college and study gaming design.
“(Seeing the wish granted) brings me a lot of joy because I know for him, he deserves everything,” Ms. Bisquera said. “He didn’t ask to be born with a missing pituitary gland, and no kid deserves to have anything short of an amazing life. So for me, it just feels like validation for him, like, here’s a day for you.”
For members of the Tri-County chapter of Make-A-Wish, making dreams come true is all in a day’s work.
The organization grants wishes along the Central Coast for kids with terminal or chronic illnesses and currently has 141 kids in their pipeline waiting for their wish to come true. About 30 of those children live in Santa Barbara County.
During a typical wish granting ceremony, families and friends of the child receiving the wish would gather together to celebrate. But with COVID-19, the local Make-A-Wish chapter created the Hope Patrol last spring to still have a socially distanced celebration. Along with cars toting family and friends, California Highway Patrol and local police departments are also consistent participants in the car parades.
Since the first Hope Patrol parade last year, David Edelman, external affairs director for Make-A-Wish, said they just keep getting “better and better and bigger and bigger every time.”
“This is really all about (the kid), and if we can make the experience better for them, we will do whatever we have to do to make it better for them,” Mr. Edelman told the News-Press.
During Carmelo’s parade, 40 classic cars paraded down the street, using hydraulics to hop and swivel. Their tricks were met with cheers from Make-A-Wish volunteers and Carmelo’s family, who excitedly watched the parade from a sidewalk outside the Montecito Bank and Trust.
Cassie Nunes, the coordinator for the event group Conejo Cruise, brought the cars together for Saturday’s event. She said this is what her organization “loves to do the most,” and was especially touched by this event because she and Carmelo share a similar condition.
“I am a type 1 diabetic, I heard (Carmelo) was a type 1 diabetic, so that, along with his love for cars, really hit me personally,” Ms. Nunes told the News-Press. “I drive a ‘68 Chavelle, and I’ve been involved with cars my whole life, so to have the opportunity to give back to someone is just amazing and that’s why I love doing it. It’s my whole career.”
While this was Conejo Cruise’s first Make-A-Wish event, it certainly won’t be the organization’s last, she added.