Make-A-Wish Colorado ® and Arrow Electronics team up to make the impossible possible
14-year-old girl receives Wish for first-ever pet dragon
It started with the dream of a young Colorado Springs girl who was in treatment for bone cancer.
When Belle, who was unable to have a live animal pet due to her critical illness, learned that Make-A-Wish Colorado would grant her one true wish, she wished for a pet dragon.
An avid dragon enthusiast, Belle clearly described her vision for a pet dragon–including its expressive eyes, ability to walk, vocalize, sleep, eat and interact, and its beautiful, flapping wings.
After conducting exhaustive research, the wish granting team at Make-A-Wish Colorado learned that such a creature didn’t exist.
That’s when they turned to Centennial-based Arrow Electronics for help.
Inspired by Belle, the corporate social responsibility group at Arrow reached out to partners, vendors and suppliers to pull together a team of “dragon creators.”
Giving birth to a pet dragon would turn out to be a lengthy process–complicated by the travel restrictions COVID-19 placed on the worldwide team of collaborators–but 19 months after Belle wished for the impossible, she met her pet dragon for the first time in a mythical setting at the Cherokee Ranch & Castle Foundation in Sedalia, Colo.
According to Joe Verrengia, Arrow Electronics Corporate Social Responsibility Director, the development of the dragon highlights what can be accomplished when every element of the design and supply chain works in tandem.
“Each component of the dragon─from its ability to respond to touch to its unique vocal sounds to its intricately painted wings and even a system to store all the necessary wiring, computer chips and processors inside the body of a 17-inch social robot─had to be created from scratch,” says Verrengia. “Several times, the initial attempt to build a piece didn’t work as needed. In each case, the entire team collaborated until they developed a solution.”
In addition to Make-A-Wish Colorado and Arrow, which directed the project and led the technology solutions, the dragon creation team included:
- Massachusetts-based Analog Devices, Inc., which along with other suppliers, manufactured the components.
- Robotics innovator Caleb Chung, who led a team responsible for capturing and programming the dragon’s essential motions and expressions and oversaw the creation and assembly of the dragon.
- Star Technologies Plus, located in Boise, ID, which worked on the electrical engineering components.
- Boise State University, which provided production assistance in building the dragon.
- Emerge Studios of Vancouver, BC, which created a virtual reality experience that allowed Belle to explore dragon habitat and learn more about dragon behavior and dragon life before meeting her pet dragon.
For the creators, the months of hard work paid off on when they watched via Zoom as Belle first met her dragon, which she stated was as close to a dragon as a robot can be. When asked how the experience made her feel, Belle responded, “I feel happy …. all the happy emotions.”
Dennis Cuppy, a member of the dragon creation team who escorted the dragon from Boise to Denver and was in attendance when Belle met her dragon, said that the experience uplifted the entire team. “Making Belle’s wish come to life brought us together and gave us hope during the dark times of the pandemic,” reported Cuppy.
Make-A-Wish Colorado’s president and CEO, Scott Dishong, who expressed the organization’s gratitude to all involved in creating Belle’s dragon, says that experience is common when granting a wish. “While the purpose of a wish is to replace fear with hope and pain with joy for a wish kid, the power of a wish is that it also has the ability to unite communities and transform lives.”
Make-A-Wish Colorado creates life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses. Research shows children who have wishes granted can build the physical and emotional strength they need to fight a critical illness. Founded as one of the first Make-A-Wish chapters in 1983, Make-A-Wish Colorado has granted more than 5,785 wishes to children across the state of Colorado. For more information about Make-A-Wish, visit wish.org/colorado or on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @wishcolorado.