EAST VILLAGE, Manhattan (WABC) -- We all know about the gifts of the Make-A-Wish foundation but what you may not realize is how many child recipients go on to live healthier lives after, and it's because of the program.
One Make-A-Wish alumnus recently reconnected with the foundation. He said his wish trip in 1999 was life-changing.
International muralist, Rey Rosa, known as DRiF, from the Bronx, is a Make-A-Wish alumnus who was born with HIV and spent years in foster care.
"I am 36 now and I never thought I would, when I was just 7 years old and learning I had HIV, believe that I would make it to this day to this moment," Rey said.
He still remembers how the hope surrounding a trip to Disney pulled him out of depression.
"What kid doesn't want to go to Disney World," Rey said. "It let me know there was more out in the world than the small space I was occupying."
Eyewitness News caught up with him and his husband, Wayne in the East Village on Avenue A where he was working on his latest piece, inspired by a photo he took of a girl in Central Park.
Tracey Anton from the New York Make-A-Wish said Ray is actually the norm at the foundation. His life began to take off after his wish was granted.
"Many kids and families tell us this is really a huge part of getting them to the other side and filling them with hope and strength," Tracey said. "Doctors and nurses tell us this is medicine they can't provide."
And to kids in pain, like he was, who feel lost, Rey has a message.
"Don't give up. People care about you. Find your family - the right channel and space and people," Rey said.
ALSO READ | Veteran firefighter who broke barriers retires as 3 sons carry on his legacy
* Get Eyewitness News Delivered
* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts
Submit a News Tip