CAVENDISH - Indiana teen Chyanna Smith doesn't want to waste a second while exploring everything the land of Anne has to offer this week.
© The Guardian photo
Indiana teen Chyanna Smith, centre, and her family, from left, father Bret, twin sisters Kiara and Arianna, and mother Vickie enjoy the scenery at Green Gables Historic Site on Sunday. Chyanna, who was diagnosed with lymphoma three years ago, is on an "all things Anne" trip coordinated by Make-A-Wish chapters in Halifax and their home state.
The 16-year-old Howe, Indiana resident and her family, father Bret, mother Vickie and twin sisters Arianna and Kiara, toured through Green Gables Heritage Site on Sunday in the first stop of an "all things Anne" trip coordinated by Make-A-Wish chapters in Halifax and their home state.
Chyanna said her trip to P.E.I. was inspired by Lucy Maud Montgomery's well-known novels, of which she's read all the books and watched the movies.
"In the movies, Prince Edward Island was really pretty," said Smith, who was diagnosed with lymphoma nearly three years ago. "When I got here in Canada, it was just really inviting and people were really considerate. Everyone has been really nice so it's been even better than I thought it would be."
The experience is meant to help the family heal, create lasting memories and provide some hope and strength for the days ahead.
Chyanna's parents both said they saw her "having a blast" upon arriving in the province.
"She just wants to soak it all in," said Vickie.
The wish was somewhat a surprise to them, as Bret said he hadn't heard of P.E.I. when she first picked it as a destination.
"She's really glad she picked this as a wish. And I am too, because when she first picked it I was like 'where's that?'," he said. "We really got excited though."
From meeting with the family to planning the itinerary, Bret said the support from the Make-A-Wish chapters have been "unbelievable."
However, what the family may have appreciated most was the Canadian chapter's extra accommodation for younger sister Arianna.
Arianna, 14, is also a Make-A-Wish child after also being diagnosed with a form of lymphoma only six months after Chyanna.
During treatment, she contracted a blood disease that requires regular treatment.
The possibility of Chyanna's trip seemed unsure up until last Monday, when the family got clearance from doctors to take Arianna.
As a precaution, the Atlantic provinces Make-a-Wish chapter has coordinated for Arianna and Vickie to be flown to the IWK if she needs an unforeseen treatment this week.
For the family, being all together for the vacation, their first in five years, is almost worth as much as the trip itself.
"The foundation went above and beyond to get that worked out so I could be comfortable coming here, knowing that they can get us there (to the IWK) at a moment's notice," said Vickie. "It took a load off my mind... We probably wouldn't have come (otherwise)."
"That's as amazing to us as everything else," said Bret. "It really is. It kind of lets us relax a little bit while we're here."
In addition to Make-A-Wish, local volunteers and businesses also helped to make Chyanna and her family feel at ease.
A jam-packed itinerary includes accommodations at Dalvay by the Sea and visits to the Lucy Maud Montgomery Homestead, the Anne of Green Gables Museum, Avonlea Village, the Stanley Bridge Aquarium, the Haunted Mansion in Kensington and Cavendish Figurines in Borden-Carleton.
The family will also get to enjoy a complimentary lobster supper at Fisherman's Wharf in North Rustico.
However, the highlight may be on Wednesday, when Chyanna will attend Anne of Green Gables - The Musical and have the chance to go backstage and meet the cast.
RCMP have also made themselves available to the family and are even helping escort the family through some of the trip.
The U.S. teen isn't alone in her love for Anne either.
Chyanna's trip is the third "Anne Wish" the Atlantic Make-A-Wish chapter has granted in the past year.
Bret said the experience has left the family unable to say enough good about Make-A-Wish.
"Before cancer directly involves you, you kind of take these foundations for granted," he said. "When you're going through something like this, it really helps take the stress off of you when you realize there are other people that care."
With the status of the trip just being confirmed last Monday, Chyanna said arriving in P.E.I. early Sunday morning felt "surreal."
However, now that she's here, she plans on taking in as much as she can until departing for back home on Friday.
"I just want to enjoy everything," she said. "I feel like I'm going to miss something so I just want to try to do everything."