NAUGATUCK — An unexpected phone call landed Veronica Moscariello on a trip to Belize through the through the Connecticut branch of the Make-A-Wish Foundation in June.
“I didn’t fully believe it when that happened because when all of a sudden you get a random phone call and they say, ‘Hey you can wish for whatever you want,’ you’re a little skeptical at first,” said Moscariello, who was diagnosed with a gastrointestinal disorder when she was 14 and undergoes day-long treatments every eight weeks.
Moscariello, who graduated from Woodland Regional High School in 2018 and now lives in Naugatuck, had a good person to turn to following that phone call — her sister had been a Make-A-Wish recipient before.
“I called my sister, she got a wish when I was 3 or 4, she had cancer. We were in shock and she couldn’t believe it either, so I Googled the phone number and it was completely legit,” she said.
Pinning down exactly what she wanted to do with her wish was tough at first, given the open-ended possibilities.
“It’s overwhelming being able to go wherever and it feels like a huge choice,” Moscariello said. “I was doing all this research and I was thinking what things I wanted, so I took that to my search. … I didn’t want to go somewhere super touristy, I wanted to go somewhere where I can explore and not have the same experience everyone else has when they go to a different country.”
Moscariello, who hadn’t left the country before, chose Belize as her destination. She had classmates take a trip there while attending high school.
“I have never seen white beaches or super clear water, so that was really cool,” she said.
Belize also offered dietary benefits for Moscariello, whose gastrointestinal disorder affects her daily life.
“Everything there is very natural, they live off the land so they don’t have a lot of pesticides the way that we do. I didn’t realize how much that could potentially help if that was cut out. So when I was there I was eating their food along with some granola bars that we brought, and I was feeling great,” she said. “Obviously it still hurt from time to time, but compared to usual it was definitely better.”
One of those natural foods was a highlight of her trip.
“They have the best mashed potatoes that I have ever had, and I wish I knew why they were so good,” she said.
The dietary difference was something that Moscariello noticed right away when she returned to America.
“I didn’t realize how much it helped until I got back and when I was eating stuff here, it hurt my stomach way more than what I was used to,” she said. “So I realized how much natural foods do help.”