Local teen's Make-A-Wish is a unique gift

Posted at 5:00 PM, Dec 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-25 19:00:11-05

DENVER -- Being a kid at Christmas can be one of the most magical times of the year. But for a young girl who's had something precious taken away, to choose to give is the true spirit of the holiday.

Her name is Eliza Downer. 

"When I was 15, I started noticing I couldn't run or do my dance classes as well as I used to," she said.

That was three years ago. Tests at Children's Hospital revealed that "used to" wouldn't just apply to running and dancing, but to walking and moving.

"And I found out that I had a rare genetic disorder which will slowly take away the ability of my legs and other muscles," she added. 

It was NBIA, a rare genetic disorder that caused a buildup of iron on her brain and forced her into a wheelchair. But her response wasn't anger or self-pity. 

"I am thankful," Eliza said with a smile. "It helps me not be selfish."

So when it was her chance for a Make-A-Wish, she could have done almost anything in the world. Her "anything" would become everything for strangers halfway around the world.

"My wish was to travel with Joni and Friends and deliver wheelchairs to Poland," Eliza explained. "We shipped over 200 wheelchairs and took them to families who basically didn't have the money to buy a wheelchair."

(Photos included in the video story are courtesy of Joni & Friends)

Five-thousand miles away, a teenager who just had the ability to walk taken away from her decided to give back.

"Just to see they joy that came across their faces when they got a wheelchair...they could finally move and be free," the 18-year-old said. "Seeing little kids that didn't like their wheelchair, but their parents loved it. Or grown-ups that would just turn in circles over and over in their wheelchair."

"She is the epitome of our mission," Make-A-Wish Coordinator Claire Babb said. "We go out every day to try to give hope, strength, and joy to families that are really struggling. And she really went and did it halfway around the world in ways we would never be able to."

And Eliza's giving spirit didn't end in Poland. She's now part of a fundraising effort to buy a motorized wheelchair for a man in the Philippines.

For more information on Joni & Friends wheelchair donation, click here.

For more about Make-A-Wish Colorado, click here.