Teen's wish is granted in style

Family enjoying vacation in Florida


November 08, 2001|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

Kelly Petrlik of Woodbine is on a dream vacation, steeped in Florida scenery and that new RV smell.

The 16-year-old, who is fighting cystic fibrosis, is on a two-week trip to the Sunshine State courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of the mid-Atlantic, which fulfills the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses.

Kelly's wish was to tour Florida by recreational vehicle with her parents and two sisters, Kacie, 19, and Kimberly, 11.

She had never been to the state before and had never traveled in a recreational vehicle, but she has always enjoyed fishing and liked the looks of the big luxury campers that dwarf the pop-up variety her family owns.

"They pull up beside us and they're all decked out," said her father, David Petrlik, a masonry contractor.

Kelly had no trouble adjusting to the good camping life Friday morning, when a 28-foot RV rolled up to the family's home with balloons, streamers and a Howard County police escort.

"I just like these things," said Kelly, lounging at the RV's kitchen table, which held a bowl of Godiva chocolates and several board games.

Those treats, provided by Make-A-Wish, almost got overlooked amid the RV's built-in bells and whistles. It sleeps 10. It doesn't just have a bathroom, but a good-sized shower with a skylight. It's equipped with a refrigerator, gas stove and microwave.

It also has the turning radius of an ocean liner. David Petrlik said he was not daunted by the prospect of driving the RV.

But Kelly's mother, Yvonne, was worried about her turn at the wheel.

"He claims I'm going to have to help," she said. "As long as it's straight on [Interstate] 95 and I don't have to change lanes, I'll be OK."

Endless Summer RVs of Frederick donated the use of the 2002 Dutchmen, which was so new it had plastic covering on the carpet. The vehicle sells for $54,000 and rents for $1,100 a week.

The foundation arranged for free stays at several campsites and discounted fishing and glass-bottom boat trips.

The family plans to deep-sea fish off the Florida Keys and visit Cape Canaveral, Sea World and the Everglades.

Kelly, who is home-schooled, uses an oxygen tank at all times. Refills of that will be free while she is on the road.

The family also received spending money to cover the cost of meals, tips and gasoline. The RV gets eight to 10 miles a gallon.

The Mid-Atlantic Make-A-Wish chapter grants more than 300 wishes a year, many of them trips to Walt Disney World or shopping sprees, said Jared Cohen, the foundation's chief operating officer.

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