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The Canberra Times
The Canberra Times
Megan Doherty

'Happiness Island': Canberra teen granted magic wish

Lara on Whitehaven Beach with her parents Antonio and Sandra. Picture supplied

A Canberra teenager has just been granted the Starlight Children's Foundation's 13,000th wish, enjoying an unforgettable family holiday on Hamilton Island.

Fifteen-year-old Lara, who is in remission from osteosarcoma, spent last weekend enjoying a host of activities with her parents Antonio and Sandra on the luxury island resort in the Whitsundays.

The Starlight Children's Foundation and Virgin Australia transformed the island in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef to "Happiness Island" for the milestone wish.

Nine other sick or recovering children also took part in the 13,000th wish, all of them greeted by Starlight Ambassadors, singer Timomatic and rugby league great Darryl Brohman, before embarking on special activities, from a Whitehaven cruise to a beach barbecue; fireworks to a performance by Kia Alexander.

Lara with her parents Sandra and Antonio. Picture supplied

Lara, who was diagnosed with bone cancer in her left leg when she was 12, had made a wish for a relaxing holiday with her family.

"She's excited," her mother Sandra said, as the family set off for their adventure.

"She can't believe it's finally here. It's a chance to make meaningful memories."

It comes after a tumultuous few years for the Canberra teen who was treated at Westmead Children's Hospital in Sydney, in the midst of the pandemic, separating her from friends and family.

She underwent six rounds of chemotherapy to shrink the tumour, leaving her with a range of devastating after effects, including losing her eyesight for several hours after one treatment. When the tumour had reduced in size enough, Lara underwent a six-hour operation to remove part of her femur and have a titanium rod inserted in its place.

Now in year nine and in remission, Lara, with her family, still has to go through the rollercoaster of emotions with three-monthly check-ups.

The family checking in with Captain Starlight and other characters from the foundation. Picture supplied

"She had the three-monthly check-up last week and there was an issue but we got the all-clear yesterday," Sandra said, ahead of the trip.

Throughout all her treatment, Lara has remained her bubbly self, using humour to help her get through it, even calling her tumour "Fred the alien".

Now the smiley teen has enjoyed their wish, and Sandra says it means everything.

"We are very grateful," she said.

Starlight's "Wishgranting program" has been operating for 35 years.

Starlight CEO Louise Baxter said the program reflected the foundation's philosophy that "being sick shouldn't mean missing out on the happiness of childhood".

"These adventures create lasting memories and provide a sense of hope when it is needed most," she said.

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