Eighteen months ago, Sana Moezzi was granted her wish by the Make-A-Wish Foundation of San Diego.
Barely six weeks after her lymphatic cancer was declared in remission, the Carlsbad, Calif., teenager and six family members and friends spent an all-expenses-paid weekend at the 2017 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival.
Now, she’s paying that gift forward. The 19-year-old college sophomore is the youngest of Make-A-Wish San Diego’s 125 wish-granters, who volunteer year-round to make the dreams of critically ill children, come true.
So far, Moezzi has helped grant two wishes and she has two more in the works. One of her biggest roles on the wish-granting team is to provide emotional support for the wish kids and their families.
Chris Sichel, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish San Diego, said Moezzi is a survivor with a big heart for others.
“What she brings that no one else can is to be able to sit across from them and say ‘you’ve got this,’” Sichel said. “These are young families; they’re so overwhelmed with everything it’s like drinking from a fire hose. They need to know there’s some light out there.”
Besides her volunteer work with Make-A-Wish, Moezzi is also the founder and president of the American Red Cross chapter at her college, the University of San Diego.
“I’ve always been a positive person, but after going through my treatment, my outlook completely changed because I was able to see things from the perspective of others,” Moezzi said. “There are so many people going through different things. I have to give that smile to others.”
In November 2016, Moezzi was a busy senior at Carlsbad High. She was juggling three advanced placement classes, running two service clubs on campus, playing violin with the San Diego Civic Youth Orchestra, working at a pizzeria and rushing to meet the filing deadline for a mountain of college applications.
Then one evening she came home from work and her mother spotted a lump on her right shoulder near the base of her neck. After a biopsy at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, Moezzi was diagnosed with stage two Hodgkin’s lymphoma on Nov. 15, 2016.
“It was devastating, both the fear of the unknown and seeing my parents so upset. It hurt my heart,” she said.
Over the next four months, Moezzi underwent four rounds of chemotherapy and a month of radiation treatments. She lost her hair, struggled with blackouts and severe nerve pain and her immune system became so compromised she couldn’t return to school.
While she was undergoing treatment, Moezzi’s case worker connected her with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which provided Coachella VIP passes, lodging and souvenir and food money for Moezzi, her parents Saied and Zohreh Moezzi, her now-16-year-old sister Shayda, and three of her girlfriends.
Afterward, she was eager to become a wish-granter herself but was too young to qualify. So on the day she turned 18, Moezzi turned in her application.
Sichel said that about 30 percent of the local wish-granters come from the families of former wish kids, but it’s rare to have a wish kid come back and participate. It’s also rare for the organization to bring on such a young volunteer, but he said Moezzi was special.
“Kids who survive illness grow up faster and are more mature than many grown-ups,” Sichel said. “Sana is just as confident talking to a child as she is with a university president.”
Make-A-Wish San Diego grants about 230 wishes each year in San Diego and Imperial counties. It also helps facilitate about 300 more wishes for children who travel to San Diego from other parts of the country. Right now, the local chapter has 299 wishes in the planning, funding and producing stages.
Tribune News Service