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Edgeley girl gets Hawaii trip wish granted

Jan. 8—JAMESTOWN — Jozie Kiecker thought she was just going to hit some golf balls on the simulator with her father on Saturday, Jan. 6, at Pit Stop Sports in Jamestown before watching some high school basketball in town.

But, Jozie, 15, of Edgeley, North Dakota, was surprised to see family and friends when she walked into Pit Stop Sports and realized her wish of going to Hawaii had been granted by Make-A-Wish North Dakota. She shared a hug and some words with her mother, Kali, before having some words with her friends.

"I was like, 'What the heck guys,'" Jozie said about her friends. "You are supposed to let me in so I don't start crying in front of everyone."

She said some attendees of the reveal party came from Fargo and Bismarck.

Make-A-Wish volunteers emailed Kali Kiecker, Jozie's mother, before Christmas to notify her that her daughter's wish would come true and a reveal party would need to be set up. Kali said family and friends were invited to surprise Jozie.

"We were successfully able to keep it a secret," Kali said.

Jozie is well deserving to get her wish granted, said Amber Hanohano, a volunteer wish granter from Bismarck with Make-A-Wish North Dakota.

"She is so sweet. She has a great sense of humor and comes from a phenomenal family," Hanohano said. "This is an absolute pleasure."

Jozie was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect, Kali said. Jozie was transported by ambulance to Fargo shortly after she was born after her physician noticed a heart murmur that wasn't going away. Jozie was flown to Minneapolis the following day.

Jozie had four heart surgeries within the first three years of her life, Kali said.

"She could have more," she said. "If the need would arise, she may have to have a pacemaker placed or something in the future if she starts to have problems."

Congenital heart defects are conditions that are present at birth and can affect the structure of a baby's heart and the way it works and are the most common type of birth defect, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website. The website says as medical care and treatment have advanced, infants with congenital heart defects are living longer and healthier lives, and many now are living into adulthood.

Jozie played sports when at the elementary and junior high levels but didn't at the varsity level.

"At the varsity level, it's so much more intense," Kali said. "Her ability to keep up became quite apparent. She participates with all the teams. She keeps all the stats so she's the student manager for the volleyball and basketball teams so she still gets to travel with her friends"

Kali said Jozie has been maintaining "really well" and takes medications every day for her heart. Kali said Jozie's condition has been good for the last 10 years.

"She sees her cardiologist twice a year and as long as everything looks good we don't have to go any more than that," she said. "Then she sees her primary physician once a year."

She added that Jozie's primary physician is the one who started the process of getting her wish granted.

Getting Jozie's wish granted took about a year, Hanohano said. She said Jozie had to decide what she wanted to do and was deciding between having a family trip in Hawaii and other different tropical locations during this time of year.

"We have to make sure that the doctors clear it and everything and she's medically OK to travel, so once that's cleared, the office does all the scheduling and books all the flights and hotels, so it takes about a year to grant a wish typically," she said. "We can expedite wishes if need be, but it takes about a year."

Jozie, her parents and three sisters will spend about a week in Oahu, Hawaii, where they will stay on Waikiki Beach. Jozie said she wants to swim with dolphins, visit Pearl Harbor, watch a luau and golf while they are there for about a week.

"Jozie turns 16 on Feb. 1, so we will be there over her birthday," Kali said.

Hanohano said Make-A-Wish covered the expenses for flights, hotel, a rental vehicle and some spending money.

"Any medical stuff, we will make sure wherever they are going to go is all there so they don't have to bring anything," said Joe Aldred, a volunteer wish granter out of Bismarck with Make-A-Wish North Dakota.

Jozie said she wanted to go to Hawaii because she thought it would be a trip her family would enjoy.

"I know a couple people who went to Hawaii and it just sounded really fun and warm," she said.

Kali said she's excited to experience the trip to Hawaii with Jozie.

"We are just really grateful to this organization and her wish granters, Amber and Joe, and would like to thank everyone for all they've done to make this a great experience for Jozie," she said.