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(PHOTOS) Happy Trails: Make-A-Wish gifts Casper family new camper

Derick Elkins embraces his daughter Emma, 8, after the family was gifted a new camper by Make-A-Wish Wyoming on Friday afternoon at Smith RV in Evansville. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)

CASPER, Wyo. — Eight-year-old Emma Elkins can’t wait to go camping with her family. She’s excited to fish, hike, and make s’mores by the campfire.

The fact that she’s able to walk, much less camp like a champ, is something her dad describes as a miracle.

She was born in trauma due to a nuchal cord, said her father, Derek Elkins.

“She had hematoma on her head, she had a brain injury,” he said. “When we were going through that, it was a lot of uncertainty.”

Derek and his wife, Jessica, have spent countless hours and days in NICU and specialty hospitals over the years. Eventually Emma was diagnosed with myotonic dystrophy and cerebral palsy, and required corrective surgery on her feet and spine. She didn’t start walking until she was three, and for a long time relied on braces and walkers.

Even after all of that, Emma was able to bound without assistance from a golf cart at Smith RV on Friday afternoon and run up into a brand-new camper.

Emma Elkins, 8, hugs her mom Jessica after the family was gifted a new RV by Make-A-Wish Wyoming at Smith RV in Evansville. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)

Make-A-Wish Wyoming Director of Development Nicole Tholson said Emma’s wish was in progress for a few months before it came together.

Smith RV general manager Cassidy Fitzpatrick says this is the third time they’ve worked with Make-A-Wish Wyoming to make a wish come true.

“We were able to find them a floor plan that they liked and, between Jayco helping us out and us, we were able to make it happen for them.”

The camper is about 184 inches long, and features tall clearance and a solar charging system that takes the place of a generator, said Fitzpatrick. Smith RV also stocked the camper with all of the essential items.

Fitzpatrick says watching the family’s reactions is worth the effort.

“It really brings you to tears,” he said.

Derek, who is also the senior pastor of the Casper First Church of the Nazarene, says he’s proficient at tent camping but not so much with the camper.

“There’s gonna be a lot of learning and figuring things out, and we’ve been watching YouTube videos on how to camp,” he said.

The family is taking Emma to the Shriner’s Hospital in Salt Lake for more treatment, but after that they hope to make their first trip in their new camper.

“This is really special for Emma,” said Derek. “She’s our miracle kid.”


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