Most of the time when people are asked “Would you like the good news or the bad news first?” they say “The bad news first please” because hearing it often helps reduce stress. Now, this might be true in most circumstances, however for Cari-Lynn Thiessen of Steinbach, just once she would like to hear some good news.

Thiessen is the mother of 3 ½-year-old Hallie, a toddler with Eosinophilic Gastrointestinal Disease which is a rare disorder that inflames her intestines anytime she digests anything. Whatever little Hallie consumes must come through a tube that goes through her nose and into her stomach and, even then, it causes her constant pain. Hallie’s colon also has functional issues making her body almost permanently stopped up and bloated.

So when Thiessen got a phone call from Dream Factory Manitoba she wasn’t sure what to expect. She explains. “I am still just completely blown away that first, we actually got nominated for a 'Dream' back in fall last year”.

Thiessen confesses connecting with them was not a priority. "These days Hallie hasn't really been doing very well. So, I only finally met with them this last week, thinking that I was going into an interview so they could just kind of meet us. But instead, it was like, 'okay, what kind of Dream do you want to give Hallie?' Then I started like, full-on ugly crying. It was just so unbelievable.”

Hallie all smiles holding her "Dream Factory" treat bag. After a bit of time, Thiessen collected her thoughts and together with her husband Jon, chose a trip to Disney for Hallie. She notes "this is something that we never in our wildest dreams, could we ever have imagined even doing, something remotely close to what they (Dream Factory) can offer a sick kid.”

And, there's more good news! She learned that Dream Factory of Manitoba will be taking care of all the expenses of their family of four, Cari-Lynn, Jon, Addison and Hallie. 

“It’s so much more than just about the money. I mean, obviously, every family dreams of going to Disney, but with a kid like Hallie, it’s very complicated because there are so many medical supplies you need to bring along. Besides the cases of formula and then you have to have an emergency plan in place.”

Thiessen says what is amazing is that Disney has a resort very close to the park itself called “Give Kids the World” which is designed specifically for kids and their families that have medical issues.

She says when the time comes for their trip, Dream Factory will take care of sending all their supplies to that resort. “It's all waiting for you when you get there.” She continues, “They are fully up to speed on what our daughters’ dietary restrictions are, what their medical needs are like. It's quite phenomenal!”

Overwhelmed she says, “It's obviously really, really wonderful that it's a free trip and everything, but being able to actually do something like this is mind-blowing because there's no way that we could do it without the support of a team like this, so it's really, really exciting.”

Another reason Thiessen is excited to take the trip is the way that “Dream Factory” and Disney work together to make sure getting through the long lineups at the theme parks don’t take too long.

“For a lot of these kids, time is of the essence, right? So, she (Hallie) will a special badge that says she's a special kid which means we will get to skip to the front of everything.”

Although Thiessen might feel bad for the families that are waiting in line, “It's not really an option for us to wait because of med schedules and stuff, but it's going to be such an amazing experience and I can't wait.”

That was just the sort of ‘good news’ the Thiessen family needed. As it turns out Hallie spent 170 days in the Winnipeg Children’s Hospital in 2021. “She's had 14 surgeries at this point, and we know that there's going to be more.”

Currently, they are waiting to hear from Sick Kids Toronto to see if they will take on Hallie’s case. So, while they are waiting for that news, hearing about the “Dream Factory” trip means a lot. Thiessen says, “we've missed out on a lot of just regular, ordinary experiences. We missed my other daughter’s (Addison) birthday. We missed her first day of school. We miss just waking up in the morning and sitting at the table in jammies. It's like these just regular everyday things that some people take for granted, it’s like when you don't get to do them yourself, you actually really, really miss them.”

Thiessen says the trip to Disney will include both their daughters, which she says will be very special.

Hallie with big sister, Addison in their princess dresses.

She mentions how hard it often is when you’ve promised your healthy child a trip to a local park, but then it turns into a trip to the ER for your sick child instead. However, she says, this trip “will be really, really wonderful for both of them. It's not just for Hallie. It's for both of them, which is kind of why we decided to choose the Disney trip. While the ‘Dream’ is obviously for Hallie, including Addison is a really big thing for us too.”

Thiessen says, though they have been awarded the trip to Disney, for now, they will keep it on the horizon as Hallie is not healthy enough to travel. “Dream Factory just holds it for you till whenever our child is stable enough, where you feel like you can safely go and doctors can sign off on taking the trip. So we are going to do everything we can to make sure that she's safe, but even so, if it's years from now, it still feels like at least we have something out there for us, that is good.”

For now, they are crossing their fingers in hopes of getting a phone call from Sick Kids Toronto, with the good news that doctors there will be able to help Hallie.

“So that is where we sit at this moment. You need hope 'cause otherwise, we're stuck where we are. There's nowhere else to go.”

Hope and on the horizon, Disney. Two things the Thiessen family is holding on to, for now.

For those wanting to help the Thiessen family with medical expenses, there is a "Touch a Truck" fundraising event taking place on July 23rd in Kleefeld.