Liberty Vandergrift and her family will be taking off for an all expenses paid vacation to the Bahamas courtesy of the Make-A-Wish foundation on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. (Contributed)

Salmon Arm girl to enjoy beach vacation thanks to Make-A-Wish Foundation

Time with swim club has had positive impact for 12-year-old after heart surgeries

Liberty Vandergrift’s passion for competitive swimming hasn’t just kept her fit, it has also helped keep her alive.

Liberty, 12, is a member of the Salmon Arm Sockeyes Swim Club, but her journey to become a member has been an arduous one. Liberty lives with a critical heart defect that has required surgery to manage and will require more surgeries in her future. This is what qualified Liberty for a wish to go to the Bahamas, through the Make-A-Wish Foundation of BC & The Yukon.

Read more: VIDEO: Campaign to provide a last, dream vacation for terminally ill B.C. boy

Read more: Three Okanagan realtors recognized by their peers

Liberty’s first surgery took place when she was three months old where a repair to her heart’s mitral valve was made and several holes in the septum were filled. Six days later though, the valve repair tore open, leading to her second open heart surgery. After that, Liberty’s heart would not start on its own and, at that point, a machine kept her alive. Eventually she was able to be moved off the machines, only to suffer a stroke a week later.

Now Liberty is doing well in school and in the water. Liberty’s mom, Soula Kemitzis, says credit is due to the swim club for how well her daughter is doing.

“[The swim club members] likely don’t realize the effect they have on her, but it’s a big one, in a big way,” said Kemitzis, adding Liberty has more surgeries ahead of her.

Read more: Campaign to give terminally ill B.C. boy his dream vacation reaches goal

Read more: Students allocate funds from Me to We projects

However, before those surgeries take place, Vandergrift and her family will be taking off for the Bahamas on March 18. When Liberty got to choose her wish, her mother was certain she knew what her daughter would want.

“I absolutely knew it would be travel,” said Kemitzis.

The family previously had the chance to explore Hawaii’s Kauai and Maui islands. Unsurprisingly, Liberty loved the beaches and the water.

“I’m certain she’s part mermaid!” said Kemitzis.

Liberty herself is looking forward to spending time together with her family on white sandy beaches, and the chance to swim in the crystal clear water.


@CameronJHT
Cameron.thomson@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Girls swimmingSalmon Arm

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

YMCA Okanagan opens child care service to essential workers

Priority given to guardians in top three tiers of essential services as identified by the province

South Okanagan piper to perform for livestreamed memorials

Penticton funeral home to show performances every Friday at 4:30 p.m.

Playgrounds remain closed in South Okanagan and Similkameen

Communities, school districts and Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen have all shut facilities

LETTER: Flights from infected countries should be banned

There is no excuse to allow those from infected countries to keep coming to B.C.

Penticton RCMP, Fire Department, BCEHS salute hospital workers

“You’re awesome” and “Thank you” say Penticton first responders, passing by emergency entrance

First Nations, remote communities need special attention in pandemic, Freeland says

Health-care workers, seniors, Indigenous Peoples some of people most at risk, health officials say

BC Hydro offers three-month bill ‘holiday’ for those affected by COVID-19

Industrial customers can defer half of their power bills

Lake Country athlete selected to participate in national training program

Volleyball player Chloe Ladd will be heading to the Lower Mainland in the fall

“I call her my adopted daughter”: Salmon Arm couple embrace student exchange experience

Rotary Youth Exchange students choose to shelter in place during COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19: Social media use goes up as country stays indoors

Overall messaging is up more than 50 per cent over the last month

Some April Fool’s Day jokes bring much-needed laughter; others tone deaf to COVID-19

Police are warning the public not to use the ongoing pandemic as a punchline

Super Beaver Task Force: April Fool’s Day joke lightens weight of COVID-19 uncertainty

Ducks Unlimited Canada enlists beavers’ help to protect wetlands in unconventional way

Solar panels installed at Summerland’s municipal hall

Power from energy project expected to provide five per cent of building’s power use

COVID-19: Okanagan College student pens petition for pass/fail grades

Optional pass/fail program would reduce stress, recognize students’ challenges faced in pandemic

Most Read