Massena Make-A-Wish teen who had lung transplant surprised with trip to Hawaii –

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Shoppers passed through the department store wearing bemused expressions as dancers with pom-poms lined up, singers practiced Christmas carols and Otto the Orange pleaded for high-fives.

A few more minutes ticked by before Stephanie McKeel, 19, of Massena, walked up to the entrance of the Macy’s at Destiny USA Friday evening in Syracuse.

McKeel suffers from cystic fibrosis, a life-threatening disease causing mucus to build up in the lungs and digestive tract. McKeel underwent a double lung transplant in May.

She thought she was coming to serve as a Make-A-Wish ambassador for “Believe Day”. Each year as part of its Believe campaign Macy’s donates $1 to Make-A-Wish for every letter written to Santa Claus. The nonprofit grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions.

McKeel, a Syracuse University basketball fan, seemed dazed by the presence of the Syracuse Dance Team, the university’s mascot and dozens of smiling people.

She was asked and penned a letter to Santa Claus, dropping it in the Believe mailbox nearby. Then she got the news: it was her wish — a family trip to Hawaii — that was being granted.

Carolers sang. Otto the Orange jumped up and down. Dozens of people cheered. McKeel appeared a bit stunned, but a smile slowly crept across her face.

“I had no idea,” McKeel said, adding that she realized something was up when she saw Otto the Orange. “It’s pretty awesome. It was really nice of them.”

Benny and Jamie Fairchild, of Waddington, volunteer with Make-A-Wish in St. Lawrence County. They delivered the news about McKeel’s wish being granted.

“Sometimes it’s quick, but in Stephanie’s case it’s taken a while,” Jamie Fairchild said.

McKeel was referred to Make-A-Wish last year, but everything was put on hold due to health issues until November. She and her family are hoping to go to Hawaii in the spring once McKeel is allowed to travel.

In the mean time, McKeel was invited to attend the Syracuse men’s and women’s basketball games Saturday at the Carrier Dome. And Macy’s representatives gave her a makeover and shopping gift cards.

McKeel said she was especially excited for the basketball games. By chance the Massena girls basketball team, on which McKeel played, is playing at halftime during the women’s game Saturday.

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