MADISON, Ala. – With the same bright blue eyes and golden hair, it’s clear Olivia and Charlotte Foster are more than sisters.
Born in May 2015, “Livy” and “Charlie” are identical twins.
There are differences, of course. Parents Trey and Cora Foster say Livy tends to be the more adventurous of the two. She loves the water and anything that goes fast. Charlie loves princesses and Minnie Mouse.
But while each has her own unique personality, their shared genetics mean that when the first evidence of Rett syndrome began to show, the Fosters saw the signs in both girls.
Cora Foster says, “they had normal development for about the first 16 months and then, we started noticing delays in their development. It got to the point, right before they turned two, we asked to be referred to a specialist up at Vanderbilt.”
According to Rettsyndrome.org, the disorder is a rare, non-inherited neurological disorder that “occurs almost exclusively in girls and leads to severe impairments affecting nearly every aspect of the child’s life: their ability to speak, walk, eat, and even breathe easily.” It begins to show its effects in infancy or early childhood.
In the weeks following their daughters’ diagnosis, the Fosters began connecting with other Rett families around world on social media. One family was in Tennessee. Through a Facebook post, Cora saw their daughter had just returned from trip to Disney World, granted by Make-A-Wish of Middle Tennessee.
“This was at a time when (Livy and Charlotte) were recently diagnosed. We were grieving that news and she just looked like she was having the time of her life at Disney.”
“We always wanted to take our kids to Disney World but after the diagnosis, we didn’t know if that would be such an easy thing to do on our own. After talking to (our friend), she said Make-A-Wish just made it such an enjoyable trip. They took care of all the details and the planning and just made it super easy for them.”
Cora started looking into the idea. The girls’ doctor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center referred them to Make-A-Wish Alabama.
Livy and Charlie were approved and placed on the waiting list.
In Spring of 2018, the Fosters found out Charlie’s wish had been granted. Eight months later, the family was finally on their way to Walt Disney World. Trey says, “it was a lot of fun. They had a great time and with Make-A-Wish, they have a place called Give Kids the World, where all the Wish families stay and they were super accommodating.”
Cora says Charlie “just loved it. She met Anna and Elsa and was just smitten the entire time and just seeing the joy on her face the entire time made the trip worth it.”
But Disney World was Charlie’s wish. Livy is still on the waiting list and what this water-loving, adventurer really wants is a backyard splash pad.
“She loves water. Every time we go to a place that has water, she has to be in it. So we thought having it in our back yard would make it really accessible for her,” Cora says.
While their back yard sits empty for now, the Fosters have hope and not just that Livy’s wish will be granted. As Cora says, “Make-A-Wish is a beacon of hope for a lot of families. It’s more than just getting an awesome trip. It’s more than just getting a splash pad or to meet a celebrity. It’s really providing hope for a family during an otherwise dark time.”
To learn how you can help Livy – or more than 80 other children in North Alabama still on the waitlist – get their wish, visit Make-A-Wish Alabama.
You can also follow the Foster family on their journey, as they raise awareness for Rett Syndrome and the search for a cure, on Instagram @PinkPuzzlePieces