Riverbank teen gets quinceañera thanks to Make-a-Wish Foundation

naustin@modbee.comJuly 27, 2013 

    alternate textNan Austin
    Title: Education reporter
    Coverage areas: K-12 education, Yosemite Community College District
    Bio: Nan Austin has been a copy editor and reporter at The Modesto Bee for 24 years. She has an economics degree from CSU Stanislaus and previously worked at the Merced Sun-Star and Turlock Journal.
    Recent stories written by Nan
    On Twitter: @nanaustin
    E-mail: naustin@modbee.com

Esmeralda Ca rlos said a few words to the gathered crowd and the daughter she almost lost, then raised her glass high and simply said, "Salud!"

Champagne flutes bubbling with sparkling cider went up in return — "Salud!"

The universal toast to good health rarely holds such meaning. For 16-year-old Yazmin Reyes of Riverbank, celebrating a belated quinceañera was the wish she held on to when her renal illness almost won, her mother said.

"When she got ill the first time, I asked her if she wanted her (Make-A-) Wish. She said no, 'Leave that for kids more sick than I am,' " Carlos said. But the next downturn, she said, her voice dropping and shaking slightly, "It was really scary. She couldn't breathe. After that she said, 'Now I really do want it.' "

Yazmin was too sick to celebrate her 15th birthday, the traditional milestone, so Saturday's peacock-themed bash also became a Sweet 16 party, something extra in a long list of things to celebrate.

"She's getting better. Her spirits are up again — for me, that's awesome," Carlos said. Yazmin remains on a transplant list, but her kidneys are working again.

The excited teen said she's looking forward to junior year at Riverbank High School and hoping to get into the AVID college preparation program, working toward being a veterinarian one day.

A quinceañera was her wish, Yazmin said, "because my mom didn't get one, my grandma didn't get one. I wanted to be the first."

Her wish came with all the trimmings, thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. First came the shopping trip for her dress, a peacock feather-trimmed bodice with a floor-length teal skirt, a necklace donated by Fred Meyer Jewelers and ornate heeled shoes.

The event, held in the Ceres Community Center, included a live band and a catered dinner. A master of ceremonies directed the evening, from the toast to the ceremonial dance with Yazmin and her court of tuxedoed brothers and friends.

There was the ritual cutting of a multi-tiered, peacock-trimmed cake. The changing of shoes, when she took off the flats of youth and put on the heeled shoes of a woman. She was given the symbolic last doll, dressed in a long teal dress like hers.

Carlos put the traditional tiara on her daughter's head for the "crowning," and wiped her daughter's tears after the video of childhood pictures.

"My mom really helped me," Yazmin said. "Even through all her frustrations, she helped me and made this happen."

Carlos, a single mom of five, said she couldn't have done it alone.

"It's awesome. She's like my little princess," she said, looking at her daughter.

"Families coming together …," sighed Make-A-Wish volunteer Joanie Johnston. "Every time we grant a wish, we're reminded what's good in the world."

Bee staff writer Nan Austin can be reached at naustin@modbee.com or (209) 578-2339.

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