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Local girl gets her wish granted

ENCNITAS — Wishes really do come true. For Encinitas resident Mary Katherine Milburn, 9, her dream of learning to ride a horse was granted thanks to the generous donations of several organizations and individuals.
Since 1980, the Make-A-Wish Foundation has enriched the lives of children with life-threatening medical conditions through its wish-granting work. While the organization relies on volunteers and the goodwill of donors and sponsors, it has blossomed into a worldwide phenomenon, reaching more than 174,000 children around the world.
Through a partnership with UnitedHealthcare, Mary Katherine, who suffers from complex heart defects, will be able to take riding lessons for one year at Concord Equestrian Center in Del Mar. With her newfound companion, a horse named Buddy, Mary Katherine will learn how to care for him and develop a bond that will last a lifetime.
The initial lessons begin this month with a limousine ride to Mary’s Tack and Feed, also located in Del Mar, where Mary Katherine will pick out her own riding clothes and other supplies.
The altruistic expression of a large corporation is not lost in the paperwork. In fact, the company’s regional CEO, David Anderson, was particularly touched by the simple wishes of local children. “It’s extremely gratifying to see UnitedHealthcare’s national alliance with the Make-A-Wish Foundation at work here in Encinitas,” he said. “As a health and well-being company, we work every day to make a difference in our communities and we are honored to be a part of this wish.”
Rachel Gershwin, the San Diego chapter organization’s director of marketing and development, said the rewarding nature of making a wish come true is remarkable. “It’s always gratifying to see a dream come true for any child, but especially one facing life- threatening illnesses,” she said. “It’s also amazing to see that the power of giving can have an equally profound effect on those involved in making the wish come true.” Indeed, Buddy’s owner, Ray Mortier, generously donated the lease to the foundation for Mary Katherine’s use.
Mary Katherine has a resilient spirit. She has undergone three major surgeries in the last year alone, including open-heart surgery, according to her mother, Kathy. “She’s thriving now.” The second-grader attends Encinitas Country Day.
A social worker told the family about Make-A-Wish just before one of her surgeries. “It completely shifted us and gave Mary Katherine something positive to focus on,” her mother Kathy Milburn said. She said during blood tests her daughter would tell her, “I’m think I’m going to think about my pony.”
“I used to think it was a nice charity, but now I understand that it really gives people hope,” Kathy Milburn said. “When your life is just about hospitals and doctors, to have something beyond that is just joyful.”
For more information on the Make-A-Wish organization, visit

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