WEIRTON - William Dziatkowicz, a second-grader at Liberty Elementary School, has an easy smile and lights up when discussing one of his favorite movies, "King Kong."
He also has a congenital heart valve defect, requiring surgery before he was a year old to repair, continuous medical monitoring and possibly additional surgery in the future.
William is a Make-a-Wish child.
BACK?FROM?TRIP — Make-a-Wish child William Dziatkowicz poses with, from left, his parents, Prudy and Bill Dziatkowicz; Michael Guida, DeeJay’s BBQ Ribs and Grille manager; and Wish Granters Kendall Rutherford and Mary Ann Atwell. William was born with a congenital heart defect, requiring surgery before he was a year old. The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Northern West Virginia sent William and his parents to Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and Sea World. -- Summer Wallace-Minger
He and his parents recently returned from a trip, supported by the Make-a-Wish Foundation, to Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and Sea World.
William, at his wish-granting dinner at DeeJay's BBQ Ribs and Grille days before the family left for Florida, pointed out his parents had not been to Disney World in several years, "since before I was born."
"I just can't wait to see his face when he sees it," said his father, Bill Dziatkowicz, adding William hadn't visited the theme parks before. "It's all about him. He's going to love it. He's really excited about going to Disney."
DeeJay's regularly hosts wish-granting dinners at no charge to the foundation or the families.
"Here at DeeJay's, hosting the wish-granting dinner is just part of what we do to contribute to the community," said Michael Guida, manager. "We feel honored to have this opportunity."
The Dziatkowicz family was put in touch with the Make-a-Wish Foundation by William's doctors at Pittsburgh Children's Hospital.
"The people at Children's are wonderful," said his mother, Prudy Dziatkowicz. "We couldn't believe it when they (Make-a-Wish) called us. It was just two days after the doctor talked to us about it. They just asked us what he wanted and how soon we wanted to go and they would make it happen."
Wish Granters Kendall Rutherford and Mary Ann Atwell said granting William's wish was only possible through the continued support of sponsors.
"William is a special child, and we were thrilled to be able to grant his wish on behalf of the Make-a-Wish Foundation," said Atwell. "It's only through the generosity of the wonderful people in the area that we are able to do this. I want to thank our sponsors who make it possible to keep going. Thank you to everyone who helps Make-a-Wish wishes come true for kids. And I want to thank DeeJay's, which is always willing to host our wish-granting dinners."
William was diagnosed when he was six or seven days old, at his first check up, said Prudy Dziatkowicz.
"When they listened to his heart, they found it," she said.
William had the first surgery to repair his heart at 6 months old, and a second when he was 2 years old.
"It's difficult," Prudy Dziatkowicz said. "It's hard to describe. I don't know how to say it."
The couple described having the isolate their only child because of the danger he might catch a cold following surgery. Today, William attends school, where his favorite subject is science, and he is a member of Cub Scout Pack 334, where he is a Tiger Cub and looks forward to participating in day camp. He also enjoys playing video games.
"He's just excellent at it," said Prudy Dziatkowicz. "I can't get it to do anything, but he just picks right up on it."
Bill Dziatkowicz hopes technological advances will potentially make any future surgeries less invasive and difficult on his 7-year-old son.
"He might need another surgery," he said. "Hopefully, when that comes, they will have the technology so it will be easier."
(Wallace-Minger can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)