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A little princess gets her wish

Josie Retz, on a shopping trip at Norby's with her foster mother, Cindy St. Claire, and Norby's helpers Diane Fett and Linda Kelleran. SUBMITTED PHOTO1 / 3
Surrounded by royalty played by Detroit Lakes High School students, are Josie Retz (in brown hat), her father, David, and sister Katie. Josie was treated to a presentation at school by Make a Wish. SUBMITTED PHOTO2 / 3
Josie Retz receives a manicure at The Spa Within at Lodge on the Lake as part of a package from Make a Wish. DL NEWSPAPERS/Brian Basham3 / 3

A big surprise awaited 10-year-old Josie Retz of Callaway on Monday, when her fourth-grade class and her foster family took an imaginary flight to Disney World as part of a surprise sendoff party for her at Roosevelt Elementary School.

Josie, a sweet and quiet little girl, “loves to dance, she loves games and she loves to swim,” said her foster mother, Cindy St. Claire of Detroit Lakes.

But don’t let that sweetness fool you, she’s a fighter.

Since last September, Josie has been doing battle with Medullobalstoma, a type of brain tumor.

A brain tumor begins when normal cells in the brain change and grow uncontrollably, forming a mass. A tumor can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous, meaning it can spread to other parts of the body). Medulloblastoma is a malignant tumor.

“They removed the tumor and think they got all of it,” St. Claire said.

But as part of the maintenance plan, Josie is on chemotherapy through November. She will visit Disney World during a two-week break in the chemo treatments.

Josie has a wish. It is to travel to Disney World with her foster mom, her dad, and her sister. The Make a Wish organization partnered with Give Kids the World to make Josie’s dream come true.

She’ll be traveling to Orlando, Fla., on May 27 with these family members for seven days.

To help celebrate, Josie’s fourth-grade class (Lisa Provo is the teacher) transformed the Detroit Lakes Roosevelt Elementary School gym into an aircraft.

The Detroit Lakes Police Department’s school liaison officer, Sgt. Robert Strand, acted as airport security as the students made their way to the aircraft.

Detroit Lakes’ own “Laker Princesses” were on hand to help everyone find their seats.

An in-flight movie about where Josie will be staying, the Give Kids the World Village, was scheduled to play during the 30 minute flight, but had to be canceled because of technical difficulties.

Another Make a Wish family was on hand to share with Josie what she can expect when she arrives at Disney World.

“Two years ago, we went down to Florida – Josie, you’re going to have so much fun,” said Kelly Carrier of Detroit Lakes.

She, her husband Matthew and daughter Ashtyn were among family members that made the trip.

“The best part of Give Kids the World Village is free ice cream for the whole family,” said Matthew.

But there is also an arcade, miniature golf, a train ride, horse stable and a great swimming pool.

“At the Castle of Miracles, every kid gets a star to decorate and it’s hung there,” Kelly added. “And once there (at the village), you’re a lifetime member, and always welcome back.”

Josie will travel with her father, David, and sister Katie, 9, as well as her foster parents, Robert and Cindy St. Claire of Detroit Lakes.

“There are no lines there (at the village) and when you go to Disney World, you get to go to the front of every line – you really are treated like royalty there,” said Matthew Carrier.

Give Kids the World Village is a 70-acre nonprofit resort that provides free weeklong vacations for children with life-threatening illnesses. It’s located near Disney World and other attractions in central Florida.

It has more than 144 villas, and provides entertainment, attractions, whimsical venues, and fun specifically designed for children with special needs.

More surprises were in store for Josie on Monday, said Make a Wish volunteer Liz Huesman.

Norby’s Department Store treated the little girl to a private shopping spree so she will have a new outfit to wear on her trip, and The Spa Within at the Lodge on Lake Detroit also treated Josie and her foster mother to manicures and pedicures.