Haley Schallmo, 14, felt like a princess when her wish was revealed during last year’s Make-A-Wish Benefit at Dickinson. Standing on the stage of a make-believe castle with pageant princesses, she learned she’d be having dinner with the Disney princesses.
“Oh, my gosh, I have no words. Even thinking about it, I’m tearing up,” said her mother Kristi Schallmo. “That day was amazing and totally unexpected. I knew what her wish was, but I didn’t expect it that night, and didn’t expect the dress.”
Make-A-Wish North Dakota will continue to grant wishes, thanks to benefits such the one being sponsored by the Noon Lions Club. This year’s Make-A-Wish benefit in Dickinson is Saturday, March 17 at the West River Ice Center.
The featured guest will be Miss America Cara Mund, a native of Bismarck.
“It will be an opportunity for our Wish children and other children of western North Dakota to have their photo taken with her,” said Kelly Braun, club president and a Make-A-Wish board director. “I’d say we’ll have 20- plus former and current Wish children there. All the proceeds go to Make-A-Wish North Dakota to grant wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions.”
The benefit, which starts at 4 p.m., is a family event, so expect jumping castles, face painting and Star Wars characters. Ice skating will be held from 4-5:30 p.m. and lunch is a build-your-own taco bar. There will be silent and live auctions. Music will be provided in the evening by Stone Johnny.
“It’s a night where the children seem to have rewed positive energy to continue their battles,” Braun said. “We’re hoping to have a larger crowd than normal. Honestly, for me to meet Miss America is great, but for the kids to be able to meet her will be amazing, especially our little princesses -- how many people dream of becoming a sports star or Miss America as children, and now we have a Miss America in our backyard.”
The daughter of Jeff Kolodejchuk, Haley was 12 when she was diagnosed with leukemia.
“I thought it was another day in the life of Haley -- she had a really bad bloody nose in school… really bad. She was on warfarin and I thought it was the combination of drugs,” Kristi said.
She drove Haley to the walkin clinic, where her nose was packed. Then she was admitted to a Bismarck hospital, where the bleeding continued another two days.. After tests were done, she went home for the weekend to wait for results. Monday, she received a call saying the pathology looked suspicious and she needed another test.
“My phone rang at 7 a.m. May 18… ‘Bring Haley right now to the clinic. A bed in Fargo is waiting for her.’”
A team of pediatric oncologists from the Roger Maris Cancer Center, supervised treatment. The first phase lasted 28 days. In addition to leukemia, she has a chromosome mutation -- Philadelphia Positive (Ph+) acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
“The Philadelphia positive chromosome is the driver of the cancer,” Kristi said.
Further tests revealed she was in remission but the Philadelphia positive chromosome still could be detected. She didn’t respond well to the chemo, and in October 2016 she went into respiratory failure. She spent nine days on the ventilator.
“We didn’t know if we’d get her back,” Kristi said. They cut her doses of chemo in half in January 2017 and that stopped in September 2017 because she needed to have heart surgery -- the mitral valve needed to be replaced a second time.
Chemo was restored in November 2017, but stopped again because she was having recurrent pulmonary infections.
“Now the only thing she’s taking is an inhibitor for Philadelphia chromosome,” she said.
The expenses add up, but the community has been supportive.
“From early on, people have been amazing in that regard,” she said.
Haley is being homeschooled because of fears of infections at school.
Amid the treatments, the family became friends with Wish granters, Lindsey Martin and Bonnie Goldsberry. And their friendship led to the Wish reveal.
“It gave her something to look forward to, it gave her something that brought her so much joy,” Kristi said.
The family went to Disney World April 4-10, 2017, starting with a limo ride to the Dickinson airport.
Haley’s best friend, Shatara, got to go with us too, because she didn’t have any siblings, which was special,” Kristi said.
They stayed at Give the Kids the World Village but they didn't spend much time there. Each day, they explored Disney World.
“We didn’t have to wait in line for any of the rides and we’d get back late at night. We spent a lot of time greeting the characters,” Kristi said.
Then it was time to have dinner with the princesses in the Round Table Restaurant at Cinderella’s castle. First, Haley went to a boutique where she had her nails and hair done. She put on her princess dress and away they went to Cinderella’s castle.
“I had a good time,” Haley said. “My favorite was Cinderella’s castle. Cinderella’s dress was blue and she reminded me of what she looks like in the movie.”
“It was overwhelming, they brought her a special gift at the table, which included a beautiful silver tray, a rose and jewelry. Honestly, she could not have been happier,” continued Kristi. “I have always supported Make-A-Wish -- it’s a wonderful organization, but I really didn’t get to know the power it had until it affected my child.”