Sixteen-year-old Hailey loves to swim. When she’s in the water, she feels invincible.
Swimming allows Hailey to feel strong and free. “When I’m in the water, I can just swim,” she explained. “I can do any type of stroke I want. I can go under water for as long as I can. I can dive. I can do all of that. I just feel free, like an eagle in the air.”
Hailey looks up to Olympic swimmers, especially Michael Phelps, as her role models. She has an adventurous spirit and continues to work hard to follow her dream of becoming an elite swimmer. Someday, Hailey hopes to make it to the Olympics herself.
While at high school swim practice last year, Hailey’s leg began to hurt. The pain continued for several weeks, until she could no longer put weight on it. Finally, Hailey went to see her pediatrician. After several tests, doctors confirmed something Hailey and her family had never thought possible. She was diagnosed with osteosarcoma - bone cancer.
At that moment, Hailey’s whole life changed. She underwent ten surgeries in about a year’s time to combat the illness. “I look at her, and all I can see is strength and a survivor,” said Hailey’s mom.
Despite this trying time, Hailey’s physical battle did not break her spirit. To stay positive and motivated, she watched videos of Michael Phelps doing what she loves most – swimming. She was inspired by Phelps’ never-give-up attitude. “Watching videos of him swimming inspired me to know if I keep my head up and push forward, I can do great things,” Hailey said.
It was no surprise that, when it came time for Hailey to choose her most heartfelt wish, she asked to meet and swim with Michael Phelps.
Make-A-Wish quickly went to work planning the wish, with the help of Michael Phelps and the Michael Phelps Foundation and joined forces with Hailey’s swim team and coaches to reveal it in a BIG way. Hailey was called to her high school’s pool, expecting to receive an award for “Most Improved Swimmer.” Instead, when she arrived, she was met with booming applause from her teammates – and a video call from her swimming idol!
Phelps invited Hailey to join him at the Olympic Training Facility in Colorado and to spend the day training with him. Hailey was shocked and speechless, but she finally managed to yell “yes” between laughter and tears of joy!
Not long after, Hailey arrived in Colorado Springs and was greeted by her hero with a warm hug. To start things off, Phelps gave Hailey a VIP tour of the training facility. The two new friends spent quality time talking about their shared passion for swimming and looking at the photos of Olympic athletes that lined the walls. Hailey told Phelps that, one day, she hopes to join the ranks of swimmers on the wall of fame.
Hailey smiled from ear to ear the entire day, but her favorite part came when she got to swim laps with Phelps in the Olympic pool. He gave her some pointers on her technique and offered heartfelt advice about perseverance, something Hailey comes by naturally.
Hailey walked away from her wish experience with a renewed sense of confidence and a new friend. She refuses to let her challenges hold her back and proves that talent, kindness and drive are what truly define her.