Make-A-Wish Foundation's Bay Area chapter has been fulfilling the wishes of children with critical illnesses for 34 years.
Some kids choose to meet Captain America or Steph Curry; others may take a trip to Disneyland. San Ramon's Ariana Dindzans chose a five-day art exploration road trip across the Bay Area.
Ariana Dindzans, an 18-year-old California High School graduate, got to go on the trip of a lifetime when Make-A-Wish Foundation sent her and her family on an excursion to art studios and museums across the Bay.
"I didn't really want to choose something that was typical," Ariana said. "Typical isn't bad if you enjoy it, or you don't get to do it that often then that's great, but I wanted to do something that was a little more original. This was a once-in-a-lifetime thing and my 18th birthday was coming up."
An artist herself, Ariana drew inspiration from some of her favorite hobbies for her wish, and from June 14 to18 embarked on a journey from Berkeley all the way to Monterey.
Make-A-Wish not only funded the trip, including money for restaurants and souvenirs, but created a day-by-day itinerary of where the family would go and what they would see.
Ariana has type three spinal muscular atrophy, a rare genetic condition that causes progressive muscle weakness and loss of movement as she ages. Able to walk using a scooter in her younger years, Ariana began using a wheelchair about eight years ago.
"By about age 12, because of growth spurts and her body outgrew her muscles capabilities, so she's been in a wheelchair ever since," her mother, Nancy, explained. "It hasn't affected her mind or her sense of humor, but it does cause her muscles to get weaker, so drawing can hurt her hands."
Ariana likes to draw, but has to switch to her tablet for digital art projects when her hands get tired, as they often do from repetitive motion.
Nancy, Ariana's father Andris and sister Maija accompanied her on the trip, and even participated in the art activities.
"They offered but (we) were happy to just sit back and watch most of the time. We're not as creative as the kids are," Nancy said of herself and Andris. "(Ariana and Maija) were both painting and we just kind sat back and relaxed."
The trip began June 14 at the Potter's Studio in Berkeley with a demonstration in pottery making. Ariana said this was the most challenging medium she tried, but was still grateful to have had the opportunity to try it out.
On day two the Dindzans family took a drive to the Bay Area Glass Institute in San Jose, where they learned about the art of glassblowing and jewelry making. Ariana helped make a glass "floppy bowl," by spinning molten glass in a 2,000 degree Fahrenheit furnace.
The next stop was the Bennett Sculpture Gallery in Carmel-by-the-Sea for demonstrations in sculpture and painting. There, Ariana and Maija learned some of the finer points of painting, one of Ariana's preferred art forms. Resident artist Ashley Bennett-Stoddard assisted the sisters in creating their own unique and colorful acrylic paintings.
After a day of rest and a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the road trip concluded at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art, where Ariana was able to appreciate the work of contemporary California artists and test her skills in printmaking.
"I'm not going to say which was the best because I loved them all. But I have ranked them in my mind by best of a certain quality," Ariana said with a big grin. "Pottery was the most challenging; the glass work was the most interesting and new, it definitely left an impression. Painting was the most fun because it was something that I was most familiar with, and printing was the most relaxing."
Ariana will be attending California State University in Sacramento in the fall, where she wants to study to become a teacher, although she has not yet decided on what subject or grade she would most like to teach.
"I know I want to become a teacher, but there are so many different types," she said. "I'm thinking either elementary teacher, third grade and up, or a high school art or English teacher."
In 2018, Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area celebrates its 34th year having granted over 8,000 wishes. During its first year of operation, the chapter granted 27 wishes; now as one of the largest chapters nationwide, it grants 400 wishes per year.