Macy's kicked off its 12th annual "Believe" letter-writing campaign in partnership with the philanthropic Make-A-Wish Foundation earlier this month and made one Tacoma, Washington, girl's dream of being a zookeeper come true.
Eleven-year-old Haley, who is battling a nervous system disorder, was welcomed to Macy's Tacoma for an in-store celebration where she submitted her letter to Santa. However, she had no idea that Make-A-Wish Washington and Alaska were there to grant her request.
"The colleagues lined each side of the aisle. It was a red carpet treatment all the way to where Haley first saw her petting zoo. We partnered with a local petting zoo and Haley was a delight and she got to hold a baby wallaby and feed it. She loved holding the rabbit. That was just so special," Andrea Schwartz, vice president of media relations at Macy's, shared with FOX Business.
Schwartz added, "In fact, I think she could have just sat in a chair holding one of the rabbits for the day."
Shortly after snuggling up with furry friends and slipping a letter into the Macy's Believe Box, Haley was whisked away to her confetti-filled Make-A-Wish reveal, which included her closest family, friends and of course a commemorative boarding pass to an exclusive Jr. Keeper tour at the San Diego Zoo.
When asked why she chose to be a zookeeper, the answer was simple for Haley.
"I love all animals because they are so soft and so cute," she told FOX Business.
Haley's mother added that she grew an affinity for wildlife at a very young age. As a toddler, Haley was inseparable from the family dog, an Australian cattle dog named Mikko.
"They were best of friends from the get-go," Haley’s mother explained.
Fast-forward to 2019 and Haley's passion still persists. At the San Diego Zoo, she received a daylong guided tour through the 2.8-square-mile Safari Park, where she saw gorillas, lions and several other exhibits. She also got a thrilling bird's-eye view from the Skyfari Aerial Tram.
"Haley and I had a blast during our Jr. Keeper tour at the zoo. She is enthusiastic, has an incredible amount of knowledge about animals, and was ready with questions for me and our keepers," said Olivia Drummond, an educator at the San Diego Zoo. "She was confident and calm around the animals and wasn't worried about getting dirty with our koalas and binturong or a hand full of slobber from our giraffe and okapi. It is a delight to share this experience with kids who, like Haley, share our passion for wildlife."
For Haley's mother, the experience was a fulfilling one. She couldn't help but feel proud of her daughter while she watched the interactions firsthand.
"We were really, really blessed," Haley's mother said about the experience. She added that Make-A-Wish opened her eyes to the generosity of the countless strangers who donate to philanthropic causes.
With the Macy’s and Make-A-Wish team-up, for every letter sent through the in-store or online Believe Mailbox, Macy’s will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish until Dec. 24. Up to $1 million will go toward making life-changing wishes come true for children battling critical illnesses across the nation.
"As a valued partner of Make-A-Wish since 2003, Macy's understands that children with critical illnesses can’t wait for their wishes to come true," said Richard K. Davis, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish America. "Together, we are getting closer to granting the wish of every eligible child, like Haley, so that each of these children can get a piece of their childhood back."