Deep in concentration, Redmond’s Alexis Hwa carefully copies the practice letter she had written at home to Santa, asking for a bunny for Christmas. Placed on her small shoulders was the task of kicking off Macy’s eighth annual Believe campaign benefitting Make-A-Wish this year with her letter to Santa Claus, and she wanted to make sure every word was spelled correctly.
Though she will be enjoying a worry-free Christmas at home this year, not too long ago, Alexis, 6, was in a hospital battling pediatric cancer. Now, Alexis wants to help kids with cancer.
She is doing so through her own Make-A-Wish project, a three-minute long animated cartoon that helps explain cancer to young children. In her video, Princess Alexis is kidnapped from her home near the Marrow Woods by a dragon named Chemia. After her fairy godmother tells her she must fight the dragon, she travels to collect a magic wand that will help her fight the dragon, but strip her of her strength and hair.
But, with the help of her family and friends, she defeats the dragon.
The decision how Alexis — who attends school in Bellevue — would use her wish slowly unfolded over her years of treatment.
Myriad ideas were bounced around when Alexis was first approached by Make-A-Wish — having Alexis appear on what was one of her favorite shows, “Yo Gabba Gabba”, for a segment on pediatric cancer was an early contender.
There was only one hard and fast rule: no other princesses.
“One of the first emails I think I got from Angela was that Alexis didn’t want to meet a princess, because she thinks she is a princess,” said Make-A-Wish’s Monica Shin, who helped Alexis with her wish over the last three years.
In the end, Alexis decided to meld two dreams into one: to become a princess and help other kids with cancer.
Alexis was first diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when she was 3 years old, and didn’t really understand a lot of what was happening, according to her mother, Angela Hwa. While the hospital answered a lot of her questions, what really helped Alexis understand was a Charlie Brown video clip about cancer.
“She really connected with that video. Alexis watched it continuously the first day we showed it to her. She’s always loved cartoons,” said Angela.
Production company World Famous worked with Alexis to create her video. They brainstormed plot ideas with her, printed paper dolls with outfit options for her character and 3-D printed several magic wands for her to choose from.
“We heard about Alexis and her whole story, and I knew right away that we should do it. The whole company got excited about it… I have a daughter, too, just being able to do anything to make her world a little bit brighter was attractive, and the whole process of being around her energy and the way it brought our team together has been really positive and special,” said Alan Nay, one of World Famous’ directors.
Her cartoon premiered on Oct. 24 at the Cinerama theater in Seattle, and Alexis picked out a dress to wear at her premiere at the Macy’s in Bellevue. As Alexis walked the red carpet into the premiere, people stopped to introduce themselves to her, take photos and ask questions.
Alexis felt like a princess, she said.
For each letter received until Dec. 25, Macy’s will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million, to help grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions. Since 2008, they have donated more than $10.8 million to Make-A-Wish.
Alexis’ video can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsFC697omCM