By Kellie Hall, Special to the Independent
During medical treatments and tests for a metabolic disorder, Dino Brown perked up at the music and rhythms his grandmother played from her ancestral Polynesia homeland.
When he had been able to walk, he would hide behind the couch pretending to play the drums, being too shy to play in front of the family, explained his mother Miriama Brown.
Now unable to talk, 5-year-old Dino, of Adelanto, Calif., let his parents know he yearned for a Polynesian experience, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation along with employees of Montage Laguna Beach made that happen in a spectacular way on Saturday, May 31.
On a lawn overlooking a vast expanse of the ocean, the extended Brown family was invited to a Hawaiian style luau to enjoy a Polynesian feast, including a full-roasted pig and four different Polynesian dance and music groups.
Dino received his very own traditional Polynesian drum from the Kawalea dance group of Eagle Rock, Calif. Every time the drums started to pound, Dino would open his eyes and a smile would stretch across his face. His mother helped him lift his arms up in the air and dance, as he is unable to move freely on his own. Dino grinned from ear to ear for a “slapdance,” purported to scare away mosquitoes, performed by the Kanana Fou Youth Group from the South Bay area of Los Angeles, Calif.
The main event for Dino was the finale with the big drums played by Tago Le Pasefika from Lakewood, Calif., who pounded out driving rhythms for dances from Samoa and the Maori people of New Zealand. Dino’s brother, Toalii, also took part in the fun. The dancers presented both Dino and Toalii with leis.
More than 140 people attended the event, including some from Salt Lake City. One family member expressed gratitude for being present to “witness the special meaning” that Dino is in all of their lives. Dino’s father, Dan Brown, expressed joy that his relatives could share the experience and gratitude to Make-A-Wish for pulling the event together.
Granting a wish for children with life-threatening illnesses requires a small army of volunteers. The Montage general manager Todd Orlich provided the venue without charge after receiving a request from Make-A-Wish. Hearts of Montage, the volunteer philanthropic organization founded and led by the employees of Montage Hotels and Resorts, helped to organize the event.
Dubbed the “wish granter,” Illina Leff, a two-time cancer survivor, staged this and about 50 other similar events during her four years as a volunteer.
In order to have a wish granted, the parents or medical professionals refer a child to the Make-A-Wish foundation, which interview the child and family. The Orange County/Inland Empire office fulfills wishes of about 315 children a year by relying heavily on donations and volunteers, explained Michelle Cuellar, a Make-A-Wish coordinator.