It was a lifelong dream for a Texas 8-year-old to meet a koala, but when her brain tumor didn’t allow her to travel, a Florida zoo invited her to get up close and personal with a pair of their marsupial residents.
Katie Higginbotham, 8, had a chance to meet Oz and Katherine, two Queensland koalas living at the Palm Beach Zoo, thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
"It’s just nice to see her smile," her mom, Lori Higginbotham, told WPEC through tears. "She deserves it."
Katie, who traveled to Florida from her home in Lavon, Texas, was diagnosed with pilocytic astrocytoma, a type of tumor on the brain stem, in October 2016.
She’s undergone countless rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatment, and after a brain surgery in February to remove a cyst, doctors revealed that Katie’s brain cancer was more aggressive than they originally thought.
Katie was given less than a year to live.
While the family originally planned a trip to Australia so Katie could meet her favorite animal, the 8-year-old wasn’t able to travel due to medical concerns, so the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the zoo arranged for the family of four to visit Florida instead.
"She’ll remember it forever," her mom said.