• Maya Peña watches the performances at the end of the parade Jan. 28.
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Princess Maya was the star of the show during a parade put on by hundreds of Douglas County High School students Jan. 28.

As she walked through the halls, Maya Peña, 6, smiled and waved as students cheered her name and held up signs of support.

“It really made her feel special,” her mom Teresa Peña said. 

In August 2019, Maya was diagnosed with leukemia and soon after was referred to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a nationwide nonprofit that helps fulfill the wishes of children with critical illnesses. Maya’s wish is to go to Disney World.

This year, Maya is Douglas County High School’s “wish kid,” which means they will center fundraising activities around her and her wish. This is the school’s 10th year participating in the program. Last year, the school raised $35,000. This year, the goal is to reach $70,000. With the average wish costing $7,500 that would grant nearly 10 wishes, said Sarah Grosh from Make-A-Wish.

The student-led fundraiser features several events over a two-week period, including a volleyball tournament, a talent show, a 5k race and a bingo night. There will also be multiple events at local restaurants where a portion of the proceeds will go to Make-A-Wish. More information on the events, which will last through Feb. 12, is available at tinyurl.com/DCHSwishweek.

“It’s the biggest thing we do at our school,” said Student Body Vice President Luke Mole. “It’s just about celebrating a child with a critical illness and making it the best two weeks of their life, giving them hope, giving them something to look forward to.”

At the Jan. 28 opening assembly for Wish Week, Maya walked with her favorite princesses ­throughout the school as the students cheered. At the end of the parade, there was a throne for her to sit and watch performances by the students, including the singing of “A Whole New World” from Disney’s ‘Aladdin’. 

Many students look forward to the Wish Week fundraiser, said Student Body President Lauren Valley. 

“It’s a unique time because everyone comes together,” Valley said. “It seems to really bring out people’s perspectives of wanting to help the community as a whole.”

Students have been planning the Wish Week since October.