‘Danke’ for a wish come true

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  • ANDY OBERMUELLER/Press Yordanka Muetzel, who goes by Danke, hopes to see an owl, a bunny and wild horses on her travels. The trailer will help the 11-year-old Post Falls girl, who has spina bifida, travel with her family.

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    ANDY OBERMUELLER/Press Yordanka Muetzel’s wheelchair waits outside her new travel trailer at Blue Dog RV in Post Falls on Saturday. The 11-year-old, who has a condition called spina bifida, has used a wheelchair for six years.

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    ANDY OBERMUELLER/Press Yordanka sits inside the travel trailer.

  • ANDY OBERMUELLER/Press Yordanka Muetzel, who goes by Danke, hopes to see an owl, a bunny and wild horses on her travels. The trailer will help the 11-year-old Post Falls girl, who has spina bifida, travel with her family.

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    ANDY OBERMUELLER/Press Yordanka Muetzel’s wheelchair waits outside her new travel trailer at Blue Dog RV in Post Falls on Saturday. The 11-year-old, who has a condition called spina bifida, has used a wheelchair for six years.

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    ANDY OBERMUELLER/Press Yordanka sits inside the travel trailer.

POST FALLS — Outside Blue Dog RV in Post Falls on Saturday afternoon, a wintry mix of snow and sleet skittered through the air.

Inside was different.

Inside felt as warm and hopeful as the first day of spring.

A dozen friends gathered as a gray car pulled into the spotless service center. Streamers decorated a new 21-foot travel trailer hooked up to a white pickup, ready for the open road and whatever adventures might await.

It was no ordinary customer taking delivery.

A little girl’s wish was about to come true.

Yordanka Muetzel, 11, likes pink and green — not purple — and says her favorite Disney princess is Tinkerbell. She has six cats, 12 chickens (which all have names), on top of two dogs, a parakeet and a frog named Prince Charming, which she raised from a tadpole as part of a homeschool science project. She likes math and reading. She’d like to have a job like her mom’s, making airplanes.

She also has a condition called spina bifida, which means her spine and spinal cord didn’t form quite right before she was born. She’s used a wheelchair for the past six years and, if you can keep a secret, she’s stronger than her brother, Elijah, 7.

Her health makes vacation difficult. She wanted to make some memories camping with her family.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation, which makes just the right magic happen for kids who’ve been through the wringer, stepped in. With the generosity of Blue Dog and Keystone RV, Yordanke, mom Shannon and the rest of the household will be able to visit family members, go see friends in Utah, camp in the woods or even just hang out in the backyard.

Wish Granter Shawn Langenderfer choreographed the details. The process begins with a conversation with the kids to find out if there’s a special place they’d like to go or something they’d like to do or be. Sometimes it takes a bit of coaxing. Three-year-olds, Langenderfer said, all first say they want to go to McDonald’s.

Danke, as she’s called, did not have that problem.

“She had it all figured out,” Langenderfer said. “She was one of the most thorough I ever had.” On a number of sheets in a binder, Danke had taken care to specify everything from the Parisian-themed decor to the pink water-and-food dish to be stationed by the front door for her pets. The bathroom was to be in vintage or antique white, and the trailer’s interior already has been festooned with a string of lights and a multicolored LED Yordanka can control with a tiny remote.

Elijah, she explained, would use the top bunk. Her wheelchair doesn’t fit, but she gamely says she can manage. “I’ll just crawl,” she said.

Danke — affable, articulate, extraordinarily polite and obviously close to her ebullient mother — revels in the outdoors. She hopes that while on her trips she will be able to see an owl, a bunny and real wild horses. “We’re going to see things, Momma,” she emphasized. “No hunting.”

Shannon, who has experience pulling a horse trailer, says she thinks she can handle the travel trailer, which drew a sideways look.

“I have to laugh at her,” Danke said of her mother. “She’ll be driving probably two miles an hour.”

Getting there, of course, is half the fun, a point that Make-A-Wish understands as few others. “They talk about [their wishes],” Langerderfer said. When sick kids have tough days, a wish has the power to refocus a troubled young soul. “It gives the family a chance to do something fun, to forget that someone’s sick and just live in the moment.”

As the party wound down, the guest of honor had one more point to make.

“Did you know that ‘danke’ means ‘thank you’ in German?” the 11-year-old asked.

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