Destiny's wish becomes a reality with help from community

PLYMOUTH —Eleven-year-old Destiny Cartwright’s house was a hub of excitement Wednesday afternoon, as family and friends waited anxiously to witness the completion of a project close to their hearts.
At 2 p.m., Destiny would be able to see her new bedroom, built by the Plymouth Kiwanis and decorated by the Make-A-Wish foundation.
“This was her first wish, to have this done,” said local Make-A-Wish volunteer Lori Parrish, of Argos.
Parrish and Mike Williams, another volunteer from South Bend, were assigned by Make-A-Wish to Destiny. Together, they met with Destiny and discussed her wish—to have her own bedroom.
Destiny, who has one younger brother and one older brother, said that she has wanted her own bedroom “Probably my whole entire life.”
Destiny contracted rheumatic fever in January 2010, a disease that attacked the valves of her heart, causing congestion. Today, she is stable due to taking 7 different pills every day—but will need surgery on her heart before she begins high school. In the meantime, Destiny enjoys dancing and swimming while avoiding activities that could increase her heart rate.
“Her heart needs to be to be at a relaxed state,” said Mewsette Cartwright, Destiny’s mother.
Mewsette, a personal trainer at the LifePlex, began considering Make-A-Wish for Destiny after talking to a friend who suggested she apply. But the project really took off when Carol Umbaugh, one of Mewsette’s clients at the LifePlex, took matters into her own hands to make sure Destiny got her wish granted.
“She’s the angel behind this whole project,” said Mewsette. “She was a woman of her word.”
Umbaugh said that she also had rheumatic fever as a child, and her father’s boss helped her through it.
“I’m paying it forward,” said Umbaugh. “It’s a belief our family has.”
After hearing that Make-A-Wish cannot do construction, Umbaugh decided to utilize her contacts in the community to enable the project. She had heard that the Plymouth Kiwanis were looking for a new project, so she contacted them first.
“They jumped at the chance to take it over,” said Umbaugh.
“We’ve never done this before, but it was too ideal an opportunity to pass up,” said Tom Sibal of the Kiwanis. “We decided it was a perfect project for what we are all about.”
Volunteers, including members of Kiwanis, the Plymouth Wesleyan Church and the LaPaz fire department, were led by Keith Woods of Lowe’s to erect an addition on to the Cartwright’s house. The total addition included two new bedrooms and a handicapped-accessible bathroom. Now, Destiny can enjoy her own room with her parents right next door in case she needs anything during the night.
“It’ll make things a lot easier,” said Destiny’s father, Mike Cartwright. “(Destiny and her brothers) are basically going from a bedroom they would all share together.”
“It’s better to be on the same level,” added Mewsette later.
The team of what Woods estimated to be 75-80 volunteers gave up their nights and weekends for six weeks to complete the construction. When it was finished, Make-A-Wish worked with Destiny to chose decorations—making sure to note her favorite thing, peace signs.
Finally on Wednesday, the new room was ready for Destiny to see for the first time.
“I feel really excited,” said Destiny before going in. “I’m most excited that everybody is here to see it.”
Destiny slowly walked into the room, which was decorated from floor to ceiling in bright pink, yellow, and purple. The peace symbol was worked in wherever possible, from a scarf hanging from the full-length mirror, to the desk lamp, to the pillowcases on the canopy bed.
“Oh my gosh…oh my gosh,” Destiny said as she looked around the room, stopping at an earring tree displaying numerous pairs of brightly colored earrings.
“You got me new earrings?” she asked, turning to her mother in awe.
Mewsette, who was hiding behind the door videotaping, nodded, smiling at her daughter’s facial expression.
Destiny made her way around the room, looking at everything with a small smile on her face, before settling down on the bed. That unleashed the flood—family members, friends, and people who had worked on the project came in, all with huge grins on their face. Flashes went off repeatedly as everyone tried to capture the moment.
The fulfillment of Destiny’s wish was a true community project, with more than 150 local businesses contributing in some way, not including individual’s donations of time and money. Woods, who recruited many personal contacts to help with the building as well as putting a sign-up sheet at Lowe’s, is not surprised that so many people assisted with the project.
“A lot of people in the community are willing to help,” said Woods matter-of-factly.