Fishers teen and family granted dream trip to Florida

Vivian with siblings Madoc, Cadha and Cowan at Disney World. (Submitted photos)
Vivian with siblings Madoc, Cadha and Cowan at Disney World. (Submitted photos)

By Marcia Ellett

The Sunshine Foundation, the very first nonprofit organization in the country to grant the wishes of seriously ill, physically challenged and abused children ages 3-18, recently granted Fishers resident Vivian Ballew, and her family, a dream trip to Florida.

Seventeen-year-old Ballew was born with Prader Willi Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that affects appetite, growth, metabolism, cognitive function and behavior. In Ballew’s case, says her mom, Rebecca Lennon, “She is hungry all the time and cannot control her eating.”

Lennon found the Sunshine Foundation online and requested a trip on behalf of her daughter, who really wanted to go to Disney World.

She said the application process was fast and easy. “We filled out an application and within six months we were in Disney World.”

Ballew and her family stayed at the Sunshine Foundation’s Dream Village and spent a day at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, a day at Universal Studios and a day at Lego Land.

When asked about a particular highlight of the trip, Lennon said, “There wasn’t one moment. It was getting to get away from everything and focus on the family. It was exactly what we needed.”

Founder of the Sunshine Foundation, Bill Sample, (who passed away in 2014) said, “Not all children are able to run and play and enjoy life. Many are innocent victims of birth defects, accidents and deadly diseases.” He asked, “Shouldn’t each child know that somebody cares enough to see his or her dream come true?”

Lennon certainly believes so. She works for Hamilton Southeastern schools with special needs kids, many of whom suffer from severe disabilities. “I think many of the kids I work with would qualify,” she says, and intends to tell their families about the Sunshine Foundation — because in spite of the financial strain that families of special needs children often experience, like Ballew, they should all get to experience their moment in the sun.

Anyone — parent, teacher or friend — can refer a deserving child to the Sunshine Foundation with permission from the child’s legal guardian. Find requirements online at