Vermilion County teen taking family on dream trip

DANVILLE – Sometime this week, Jill Myer will swim with dolphins, jet ski, parasail, go to a luau and climb Diamond Head volcanic crater in Waikiki.

On Wednesday, the 13-year-old Danville resident is taking her family to Hawaii as part of her six-day dream vacation.

Make-A-Wish Foundation of Illinois is helping her do it.

Jill is not terminally ill.

"For the most part, not all children are terminal," said Jessica Miller, spokeswoman for Make-A-Wish Foundation of Illinois. "It's not a qualifier."

What Jill does struggle with every day is panhypopituitarism – a condition where the pituitary gland does not release any hormones, some of which are necessary for growth and fighting infection.

But it doesn't slow her down.

Jill plays softball, soccer and the flute. She dances and sings as part of her school's show choir, The Red Coats.

She's on the student council at North Ridge Middle School. Next school year, she'll be an eighth-grader.

She's tall, slender and wears a size-10 shoe. One day, she hopes to be a supermodel.

"It's one of the crazy dreams," Jill said of her ideal job. "It's fabulous, really. You get paid a lot."

Her mother, Nancy Myer, calls her a clothes horse.

Jill was diagnosed with panhypopituitarism at 9 months old after she stopped eating and growing and slept all the time.

She takes three pills a day and gives herself a shot in the stomach each night. Her parents are constantly nearby with emergency medication.

If she breaks a bone or catches the flu, Jill needs a larger dose of cortisol to help fight infection. Without it, she could go into shock and die.

The family pays $30,000 a year in medical costs for Jill's condition. Nancy Myer and her husband, Robert, own Danville Vacuum Cleaners and pay $2,500 a month in health insurance for the entire family.

Nancy Myer said the family has tried to make everything as normal as possible for Jill, but "it's worked against us, too."

They haven't told many people about Jill's illness.

As a result, when Jill is asked to take weekend trips with friends, Nancy Myer often turns them down because of the threat of an emergency.

"I can't put that (responsibility) on another parent," Nancy Myer said.

But all this will be put in the back of their minds when a limousine picks up the Myer family on Wednesday.

Jill said she thought of Hawaii because her fifth-grade teacher, Becky Burgoyne, talked about it so much.

"It sounded amazing," Jill said.

Two "wish granters" from the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Illinois – Janet Scharlau and Cheryl Huls – spent the past several months working with Jill to make this trip a reality.

Jill made all the decisions.

"Sometimes what you find with Make-A-Wish kids is so much in their lives is dictated," Scharlau said. "So when they get to choose, they blossom."

Miller said that the foundation grants about 600 wishes a year in a 70-county region. Each wish can cost an average of $5,000, not including donated air miles for plane tickets and other items.

"They don't have to be dying," Huls said. "They are in a crisis right now. Hopefully, they will come out of it."

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