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Tennessee 12-year-old gets wish to visit Alaska

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Posted: Sunday, January 5, 2014 12:15 am | Updated: 8:58 pm, Sun Jan 5, 2014.

FAIRBANKS — When 12-year-old Shealeigh Brewer was given a wish by the Make-a-Wish Foundation she didn't want to go to Disneyland like all the other kids, she wanted to go to Alaska.

"I was wanting to go to Disney or somewhere that a lot of other people been to, but I really wanted to do something really different with my Make-A-Wish," she said in a polite and lilting Tennessee accent. "I wanted to do something that I know that I would probably never get to do."

Her family arrived in Fairbanks on Friday afternoon, completing the first-ever flight for Shealeigh and her 9-year-old brother, Cameron, from their home in Riceville, Tenn., which has a Dollar General, a gas station and no traffic lights.

Brewer, who was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer that mainly affects children, in February.

"I was having a lot of chest pain, my leg never really hurt, but I thought I kinda had pulled a muscle because I cheer and am pretty active and stuff," she said, "but it turned out to be a little more."

She picked Alaska after seeing it appear in so many TV shows during the past year of treatment.

"I've only seen it in books and pictures. We watch all the Alaska shows, and I always thought it was just the coolest thing and it was so beautiful," she said. "So I said that's what I want to do, I want to go to Alaska and see the northern lights."

Doctors removed a rib and part of some bones in her right leg. She's two sessions from being complete with chemotherapy. She's in a wheel chair and wears a pink beanie, but her mom, Dana, proudly says her daughter hasn't suffered much nausea during the treatment.

Shealiegh's recent visits to the doctor included the news that she's now cancer-freer and should be able to return to school at least part time in February. She said she also expects to return to the cheer squad.

Her trip will be mostly spent at Chena Hot Springs Resort, where she'll have the opportunity to go on a dog sled ride, see the ice museum and try reindeer.

"It's like a dream," she said. "It doesn't even look real."

Contact staff writer Matt Buxton at 459-7544. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.

Make-A-Wish Foundation

Brewer is one of about 50 Make-A-Wish children to visit Alaska each year, said Nicole Sheldon, the regional director of the Alaska Office. Children come hoping to see the northern lights, snow, Denali and even go fishing during the summer.

In Alaska, the Make-A-Wish Foundation grants wishes to about 30 local kids. The Make-A-Wish Foundation is partially funded by the Pick.Click.Give. program. She said the state program is hoping that Pick.Click.Give donations will be able to grant wishes for six Alaska children.

More information on the program can be found online at www.alaska.wish.org.

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