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Local teen gets trip of a lifetime
April 16, 2012

Maddie Schut visits Rome on behalf of Make-A-Wish

By Kristen Miller
News Editor

COKATO, MN; ROME, ITALY, – A Disney cruise or a trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter were the two choices Jill Schut thought her daughter, Maddie, would chose for Make-A-Wish destination. The soon-to-be 13-year-old had another place in mind – Italy.

When asked why, she said, “Because I wanted to see old stuff.”

Maddie first found out she was granted a Make-A-Wish in August, after being nominated by her mother.

“I wasn’t all that excited because I didn’t believe I actually was [chosen],” Maddie said.

At age 3, Maddie was diagnosed with juvenile dermatomyositis, an uncommon inflammatory disease marked by muscle weakness and a distinctive skin rash. Currently, there are 5,000 children in the US diagnosed with this incurable disease.

Complications surrounding this disease can be life-threatening, such as pneumonia and cardiovascular issues.

Maddie’s symptoms have included muscle weakness and lack of energy and stamina. She must also take necessary precautions including wearing sunscreen anytime she is outdoors or the disease is more likely to flare up, Jill explained.

Otherwise, Maddie is allowed to participate in regular activities. Currently, she is in golf at Dassel-Cokato.

‘Wish granted’

Wish-granters Garey and Sherry Knudsen of Hutchinson, contacted the Schuts informing them they were eligible for Make-A-Wish and met at Daniel’s Restaurant.

With them, the Knudsens brought Make-A-Wish backpacks for Maddie and her sister, Emma.

Then they asked where Maddie wanted to go.

Jill thought Maddie was going to say a cruise or a visit to Universal Studio’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Maddie had something else in mind, however.

She wanted to visit Italy.

This surprised everyone. “I had no clue she was even thinking about anything like that,” Jill said.

Apparently, Maddie had watched something in school on Italy and wanted to see what it was like for herself.

Just in case Maddie wasn’t granted her first wish, she picked two other wishes that didn’t involve travel expenses. They were a trip to Wisconsin Dells, and redoing the attic and turning it into Maddie’s new bedroom.

After three weeks, the family again met with the Knudsens at Daniel’s. Garey and Sherry greeted them with a poster that read “Rome.”

“The people at Daniel’s were the first to know,” Jill said.


As part of a send-off party, the family celebrated with family, friends, and the Knudsens at Buca di Beppo Italian Restaurant in Maple Grove March 25.

That night, the family stayed at Water Park of America before flying to their next destination – Rome.

They landed March 27 and spent six days exploring the ancient city.

Some of Maddie’s favorite spots were the Trevi Fountain, the pantheon, and the Egyptian obelisks (four-sided monuments) that can be found all over Rome.

But Maddie’s most favorite place was St. Peter’s Basilica “because it was huge” and “in it were dead popes,” she said.

She also enjoyed touring the catacombs, ancient underground cemeteries used by the Christian and Jewish communities.

Her favorite food in Rome was the rigatoni carbonara, which she described as a pasta dish with eggs, cheese sauce, and pancetta.

Maddie was also impressed with the Italian McDonald’s, particularly the pistachio McFlurries.

Souvenirs she brought home with her included “Rome” bracelets, a “Rome” bag, and chocolate.

“It was definitely a trip of a lifetime,” Jill said, after returning home April 2.

Along with a “thank you” sent to Target Corporation, which paid for the trip through Make-A-Wish, Maddie will write a short story for the Myositis Association newsletter sharing her experience.

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