Lighting up lives

Snohomish 4-year-old faces leukemia and a Christmas crowd

By KARL SCHWEIZER

Herald Writer

SEATTLE — At age 4, Kristy Shurvinton has lived through more ups and downs than some people have at 40.

The Snohomish toddler got to be the star of the Christmas tree lighting at Seattle’s Westlake Center Friday night, thanks to a local jewelry business and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Kristy, who was diagnosed with life-threatening leukemia at age 2, waved to a crowd of thousands from the podium, where she stood with Santa Claus, her father, and television anchor Steve Pool for the tree lighting.

Then she was off for a horse and carriage ride with her 12-year-old sister, Kelsey, and parents, Stan and Nancy Shurvinton.

The event capped a tumultuous year for the family. At the beginning of it, they did not know whether Kristy would see her fifth birthday. She was undergoing chemotherapy and the slightest infection could have proved fatal in her weakened condition.

Then the Make-A-Wish Foundation offered to give Kristy her heart’s desire: a trip to Disneyland to meet characters from the movie "The Lion King."

Now her parents have nothing but praise for Make-A-Wish, a charity that fulfills the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses. The charity sent Kristy and her entire family to Disneyland during the summer.

"(The trip) came at a difficult time for the family, and it was such a positive thing," said Stan Shurvinton.

That could have been the end of Make-A-Wish’s involvement with Kristy, but a Westlake Center jewelry store invited Make-A-Wish to participate in the tree-lighting ceremony, Make-A-Wish spokeswoman Jennifer Blume said.

Make-A-Wish chose Kristy to be the guest of honor. It was role she appeared to relish.

"I thought she’d be scared, but she did extremely well," said her father. "She loved standing in front of the crowd and waving."

Kristy is one of 240 young people with life-threatening illnesses whose wishes were granted by the regional Make-A-Wish office this year. The little girl "summed up the whole meaning of Make-A-Wish," Blume said.

But the best gift for Kristy and her family hasn’t been the trip or the fanfare. It is that her leukemia is in remission. At the end of the year, she will no longer need to take chemotherapy. If all goes well, she should be able to attend kindergarten next year, her parents said.

Her mother said she was eager for the last treatment to be done.

"With the new year coming and her being off treatment, it’s a new beginning," she said.

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