Local 52 member Vince MacNeil is a real-life Santa Claus, helping grant wishes to children who need it most
Vince MacNeil's connection to the Make-A-Wish Foundation is a personal one. When his daughter, Keyaira, was just a toddler, she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
“She was just a typical little child, playful and fun-loving,” he says. “But she was always falling down and bruising quite a bit. Then she was losing her appetite and was tired all the time. We started getting really concerned.”
Vince and his wife took Keyaira to the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, where they ran some blood tests and then referred her to the IWK Health Centre in Halifax. It was there that the two-and-a-half-year-old was diagnosed with cancer.
“It was a very hard time for Keyaira and for our family,” Vince says. “She had to get chemo and spent so much time in the hospital. During that difficult time, we met with a social worker who mentioned the Make-A-Wish Foundation to us. We kind of kept that in our back pocket until Keyaira was finished up all her treatments. We didn’t want to get our hopes up.”
Several difficult years passed, with Keyaira in and out of the hospital. By the time she was five years old, she was given a clean bill of health. It was then that she could make her wish and have it come true.
“She could’ve wished for anything—a new Barbie, a dollhouse, but her dream was to go to Disney World and have a tea party with a princess,” says Vince. “We used to have this babysitter, Ernestine, and Keyaira absolutely loved her. Every day, they’d get dressed up like Disney princesses, bring down all the stuffies, and have a tea party while watching Coronation Street.”
The trip to Disney was a wish come true for the whole family.
“Make-A-Wish took care of absolutely everything,” says Vince. “They took care of the passports, they paid for the flights, they gave us a rental car, they put us up in the Give Kids the World Village for seven days, and gave us spending money—we were treated like royalty.”
And like a princess, Keyaira was finally able to have a tea party with Sleeping Beauty.
“It was incredible,” says Vince. “Sleeping Beauty sang, she danced, she was amazing. But they gave the kids apple juice at the tea party, and Keyaira complained because she was expecting real tea!”
The trip to Disney was just as much a miracle for Keyaira as it was the rest of her family.
“We got to see our child happy after years of needles and blood work and hospital stays, getting poked and prodded,” says Vince. “And she’d be crying all the time. It was so nice to just see a smile on her face and pure joy after such a rough childhood spent in a hospital.”
Keyaira is now 19 years old and is healthy and thriving. She’s currently in her second year of nursing at Cape Breton University.
Although Vince works as an operator for Nuna Logistics based in Ontario and stays in camp on a two weeks on, two weeks off rotation, he devotes his free time to raising money for Make-A-Wish.
“It’s a lot of work,” says Vince. “But it’s worth it, just to put a smile on a kid’s face.”
Vince was inspired to start fundraising for other families when a little girl in his neighbourhood was diagnosed with a brain tumour. He called Make-A-Wish and told them that he wanted to put on an event so he could sponsor the child’s wish.
“A couple friends of mine who are in the music industry got together and we came up with our own fundraising event called Rockin’ for Wishes,” says Vince. “This was in 2018. I went out and got people to sponsor T-shirts, got donations from local businesses, got a venue, sound guys, and a bunch of bands for a night of fun and fundraising. That first event raised $16,379. The average wish is about $10,000, so I raised enough money that year for a wish and a half!
“I talked to the little girl’s dad before raising the money, and told him they were approved for a wish. He just started bawling on the phone. They had no money, they’d never been off Cape Breton Island, never been on a honeymoon, they needed a new roof, and their little girl was battling a brain tumour. Receiving a wish just lifted their hearts and they were so appreciative. I could empathize with their situation, because having a child spending their childhood in a hospital is sort of like being in a war. So when they can go somewhere like Disney, it’s like coming home. Getting to see our little girl smile and have fun, to see that look on her face is something I’ll never forget. So that’s why I’ve committed to making other kids smile, too.”
Vince’s next Rockin’ for Wishes event is planned for September 2023. He’s currently working hard on his off hours to get everything in order, including sharing the QR code to his webpage with his coworkers so they can support him.
“Make-A-Wish has such a special place in my heart,” says Vince. “My family and I have put so much work into running the event each year, but it’s worth every minute, just to put a smile on a kid’s face. That’s pure magic.”
If you’d like to support Vince’s fundraising efforts for Make-A-Wish, please visit his donor page or find the event page on Facebook.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation (formerly known as the Children’s Wish Foundation) was founded in 1980 with the goal of providing wishes for critically ill children between the ages of two and a half to eighteen.
The first wish ever granted was for seven-year-old Christopher James Greicius in 1980. Even though Chris was battling a life-threatening illness, he wanted nothing more than to be a police officer. On April 29, 1980, Chris got the surprise of a lifetime when a US Customs officer arranged to take him on a helicopter ride around the city of Phoenix, Arizona. When his condition took a turn for the worse just a few days later, his true wish was fulfilled: he was presented with an official Arizona Highway Patrol uniform. This served as the inspiration for the largest wish-granting organization in the world.
Headquartered in Phoenix, Make-A-Wish is now the world’s leading children’s wish-granting organization, serving children in every community in Canada and in more than 50 countries worldwide.
Since 1983, Make-A-Wish Canada has granted over 36,000 wishes across the country and over 1,000 last year alone.
Keyaira MacNeil chose to have a tea party with Sleeping Beauty for her wish. But how does Sleeping Beauty (also known as Aurora) rank in terms of popularity?
While everyone has their own favourite Disney princess, in 2020, USA Today took it upon themselves to rank each Disney princess from worst to best. It looks like they may have been sleeping on Aurora.
14 Disney Princesses from Worst to Best
14. Aurora (Sleeping Beauty)
12. Snow White
10. Ariel (The Little Mermaid)
9. Jasmine (Aladdin)
8. Merida (Brave)
7. Rapunzel (Tangled)
6. Tiana (The Princess and the Frog)
5. Belle (Beauty and the Beast)
3. Vanellope von Schweetz (Wreck-it Ralph; Ralph Breaks the Internet)
2. Elsa and Anna (Frozen)