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Picking a fresh apple is her dream come true

Olive Vasquez will pick apples and ride in the Apple Festival parade. Olive Vasquez will pick apples and ride in the Apple Festival parade.

Many Henderson County residents might take apple picking for granted. But for a little girl from Florida, picking and eating an apple directly off the tree is a “dream come true.”
Six-year-old Olive Vasquez of Jacksonville, Florida was diagnosed with Wilms Tumor, a rare type of kidney cancer, shortly before entering pre-kindergarten. Results from an imaging test showed a tumor on one of her kidneys. Physicians removed Olive’s kidney and she began a regimen of intense chemotherapy. Throughout the treatment, Olive needed a feeding tube, lost her hair and experienced extreme energy loss.
Olive’s physicians notified Dreams Come True of Jacksonville Inc., which helps children battling life-threatening illnesses to achieve their dream wish. The organization quickly got to work making her apple-picking dream a reality.
Trip considerations were made since Olive is only allowed to go a limited distance from her home base. In addition, she would need easy access to hospitals with physicians trained to treat her in the case of an emergency.
The team from Dreams Come True did a Google search and quickly found that Henderson County, one of the Southern-most apple growing regions, would be the best place to visit for apples. As they dug deeper, they found the N.C. Apple Festival website, where they discovered that a picturesque mountain town celebrated apples every year for four days. Anyone that loves apples that much, festival organizers thought, deserves some recognition from the town that’s famous for growing them.
“We could have just had her come up, go to the festival and pick some apples, but we wanted to do more than that,” said Cheryl Gudger-Thompson, this year’s Apple Festival president. “Olive, her mom and dad, her 9-year-old sister and her 1-year-old sister are driving from Jacksonville to Hendersonville on Thursday, Aug. 30, and are staying at Cascades Mountain Resort until Tuesday, Sept. 4. She will be able to enjoy the pool and waterslide at Cascades. She will be introduced during the opening ceremony Friday morning. Her and her family will go to Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard on Sunday to pick apples. Then on Monday, the Farm Bureau Association is sponsoring a float for Olive and her family to ride in the King Apple Parade.”
Dreams Come True of Jacksonville is not affiliated with a national organization. It relies strictly on the generosity of individuals and corporate supporters to provide the funding and in-kind resources necessary to create unforgettable memories for children who live or are treated in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia. They will provide Olive’s family with spending money and pay for their accommodations. Meals are being provided by local restaurants and Goldsmith by Rudi is making Olive a special charm commemorating her trip.
“Many sponsors have come together to make this little girl’s dream come true,” Gudger-Thompson said. “Right now she thinks she is just coming to pick apples so we are doing a video to send to her before the trip of all the things she will be doing.”

Dreams Come True fulfills a variety of kids’ “wishes,” including week-long trips to theme parks, swimming with dolphins and meeting celebrities.
“She had all these options laid out before her and she still just wanted to pick apples,” Gudger-Thompson said. “That is what I think makes this story so special.”