When 9-year-old Abby Mank was granted a wish from Make-A-Wish Wisconsin last year, she knew immediately what she wanted.
As a video game enthusiast and lover of Minecraft, Abby, who lives in Oak Creek, dreamed of being in a video game.
'I got to design the character,' Abby said. 'She has glasses like me.'
Abby was born with congenital diaphragmatic hernia, which occurs when the diaphragm isn't properly formed. She has suffered a host of gastrointestinal issues, resulting in multiple surgeries, limited travel and days missed from school.
Anne Mank, Abby's mom, said she never considered asking for a wish from Make-A-Wish until a nurse at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin mentioned it during one of Abby's stays.
To be granted a wish, a parent, medical professional or even the child can make a referral. Make-A-Wish then determines a child's medical eligibility with the help of the treating physicians. The child must have a life-threatening medical condition that is progressive, degenerative or malignant and has placed the child's life in jeopardy.
Team members from Make-A-Wish then learn more about the child's wish and work to grant it.
'It's been an amazing experience,' said Mank.
Last summer, Filament Games worked with Abby and her family to transform her into an avatar. Abby was able to pick the avatar's outfit, the color and length of her hair, the look of her glasses and even what her vehicle would look like.
Using voice recordings, Abby was transformed into Ruby, who serves as a guide in Animobile Adventures, a game that teaches users about different animal traits and how they are used for survival.
'We were thrilled to include Abby as a character in Animobile Adventures, an educational game made in partnership with McGraw-Hill Education,' Maxwell Zierath, a producer at Filament, told Make-A-Wish Wisconsin. 'Her character will join the player on adventures around the world, discovering animals and giving out advice and tips.'
In October, Abby and her family traveled to Filament Games by limousine where Abby walked a red carpet and signed autographs. She not only was able to see the finished game, but she also was able to play it.
Abby also got to demonstrate the game for her class at Meadowview Elementary School.
'I loved watching her reaction to it. It's also been nice to see her be outgoing — to show people the game. She's been up in front of her class, doing interviews. It's helped give her some confidence. She's so proud to show people,' Mank said.
The game is available from McGraw-Hill Education for use in schools. It's part of the company's efforts to actively embed learning into video games. McGraw-Hill has been working with Filament Games to help develop modules for its K-5 science program, Inspire Science.
'It's been a great partnership with Filament Games to make this happen,' said Chris Willig, president of McGraw-Hill Education's K-12 group. 'We love being able to tell Abby's story and work with her an her family.'
Learn more about the game and see a video about Abby's story at wisconsin.wish.org.
Liz Paulsen is the editor of Metroparent and the mom of three boys.