Leslie pulls open the door to her closet and stares at the rows of pleated skirts, jeans and casual shirts lining the walls. They look drab. The fabrics fall flat and dull, and feel stiff against Leslie’s skin. She imagines a closet full of color and character. A closet stocked with fantasy, narrative, conflict … and new identities.
Comic books. Anime. Manga. These are the realms Leslie would rather live in than her reality of waiting rooms and doctors’ offices. For years, she has wanted to go to a Comicon convention – to surround herself with people who share her love for these fantasy worlds – but her wardrobe didn’t quite match her interests.
A wish could change that.
The wish, the designer and the wardrobe
Make-A-Wish Oregon volunteers turned to local fashion designer Angeline Abuyen, who shares Leslie’s enthusiasm for cosplay and offered to create five original costumes based on Leslie’s favorite characters. Each ensemble includes colorful hair pieces and accessories, staples of the cosplay world.
“Cosplay provides an escape, an opportunity to pretend to be someone else and not think about what’s going on in real life and be with people who are doing the same thing,” Abuyen told local reporters.
Leslie wakes up on March 9 – her 14th birthday. She dresses in a Sailor Moon-esque outfit and adds a hair piece that extends to her knees. She looks in the mirror and smiles, feeling a little more like herself.
At the Benson Hotel in Portland, a crowd of family, friends and fellow cosplayers wait for Leslie. She steps onto the red carpet to cheers and camera flashes, and floats into the ballroom. Before her is a swarm of painted faces, teal hair and vibrant, layered fabrics – a crowd of cosplayers straight out of a comic book or manga cartoon. These are her people.
“I’m so happy that the community – the Comicon community, the cosplay community, the fashion show community – came together … and helped make Leslie’s wish come true,” said Tracey Lam, public relations and communications manager at the Oregon chapter.
Seated among this animated group, Leslie watches as five models strut down the catwalk dressed in her custom outfits. She can imagine herself transforming into each of the characters, a powerful warrior girl who can make an entrance at the next Comicon convention while also taking on the reality of her lymphoma.
Leslie’s cosplay wardrobe and newfound confidence were possible because of that initial wish referral. There may be a child in your community who is eligible for a wish and has a dream as deep as Leslie’s. To learn more about wish referrals, visit wish.org.