Mahalo – Much Gratitude to Panther Run Elementary

Students at Panther Run Elementary School said, “Aloha” to their special guest visitor Charlotte Nathanson in a school assembly in late May. The third-grade student has been battling with leukemia and thought she was invited to the Pembroke Pines school to give a speech about her experience with cancer and to tell what she’s wished for from Make-A-Wish ® Southern Florida. However, what Charlotte did not know was that she would be speechless.

More than 600 students, faculty, administration, and local dignitaries gathered in the school’s Hawaiian-themed cafeteria/auditorium donning leis to greet Charlotte and her family. Once everyone was gathered together the elaborate surprise was revealed.  These young philanthropists had fundraised all year long to grant the brave eight-year-old Plantation resident her wish to learn to surf in Hawaii.

“Charlotte was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia last fall and it always has been her dream to learn to surf in Hawaii. She’s an adventurous child, loves to swim, and take on new challenges, so I think she sees Hawaii as the quintessential place to learn how to surf,” stated Charlotte’s mother Natalie Nathanson.

The Panthers raised more than $5,000 through the “Kids for Wish Kids”program which was enough to underwrite the cost of Charlotte’s Hawaiian dream. The average cost of a wish in southeast Florida is $5,000 with the most popular being a visit to Walt Disney World ® followed by domestic/international travel, cruises, shopping sprees, and meeting a celebrity.

Typically, there are five types of wish requests: “I wish to be” (something), “I wish to meet” (someone), “I wish to go” (somewhere), “I wish to have” (something), and “I wish to give” (something). Make-A-Wish ® Southern Florida has granted more than 12,000 life-changing wishes since 1983 for children who have critical illnesses. The non-profit organization aims to grant a wish for every medically eligible child in its territory

Principal Elaine Saef and Assistant Principal Shannon Chacona also revealed their pink and blue-dyed hair – a promise they made to the students if they met their fundraising goal. The students then wrapped them in pink and blue toilet paper to add to the festivities.

“The wishes we grant aren’t just nice, they’re necessary. Research shows the anticipation of a wish and memories made during them can have a positive and significant impact on the health and well-being of the children, families, and extended networks we reach,” explained Sherri Gutierrez, a member of Make-A-Wish® Southern Florida’s Board of Directors and the mother of Max Gutierrez, the 5th grader who brought the “Kids for Wish Kids” initiative to Panther Run Elementary.

For more information on Make-A-Wish ® Southern Florida, please visit