Syrian girl's dreams are coming true thanks to Halifax pilot

·3 min read
Rama Alrashid is seen with her new kitten, Howard. Dimitri Neonakis helped Alrashid adopt the kitten to grant her second wish. (Dimitri Neonakis/Facebook - image credit)
Rama Alrashid is seen with her new kitten, Howard. Dimitri Neonakis helped Alrashid adopt the kitten to grant her second wish. (Dimitri Neonakis/Facebook - image credit)

A young Syrian girl who moved to Canada for a life-changing procedure five years ago is having her dreams come true thanks to a generous Halifax pilot.

Rama Alrashid moved to Canada with her family in 2016 after requiring a bone marrow transplant to treat her rare blood disorder. She spent most of her childhood receiving painful blood transfusions in Jordan.

"It was very hard to go through that," Alrashid told CBC Radio's Mainstreet on Tuesday.

But now, the 13-year-old is happy and healthy and living in Halifax. She said when she came to Canada, she had three particular wishes: to co-pilot a plane, adopt a kitten and meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

That's where Dimitri Neonakis comes in. He's a Halifax-area pilot who runs a free program that gives sick and disabled children the chance to fly in his co-pilot's seat.

Dimitri Neonakis/Facebook
Dimitri Neonakis/Facebook

He made Alrashid's first wish come true last week.

"She's another fighter, a warrior — as I call these kids," Neonakis told Mainstreet.

"They have gone through hospitalization, different operations, and Rama, on top of that, she escaped a war-torn country to come here to Canada."

It was when the pair were flying over Halifax that Alrashid told Neonakis about her other two wishes.

"She said, 'I wish I had a kitten,' and I thought to myself, I'll see if I can work something out," Neonakis said.

Dimitri Neonakis/Facebook
Dimitri Neonakis/Facebook

Once they landed, Neonakis put out a call on Facebook asking animal shelters if they would be willing to adopt out a kitten to Alrashid and her family.

Within hours, the Cumberland County Animal Hospital in Amherst responded saying they had a fully vaccinated, two-month-old grey kitten named Howard that would be perfect for Alrashid.

Neonakis surprised her with the kitten at the shelter this past weekend.

"[I thought], maybe I'm going to play with an animal for a few seconds, then go home, but then I saw Howard," Alrashid said.

"And I was like, 'Oh my God, he's so cute,' and she was like, 'He's yours.' I was so shocked."

Dimitri Neonakis/Facebook
Dimitri Neonakis/Facebook

When she received the kitten, she told Neonakis it was the best day of her life, even better than flying a plane.

"I'm obsessed with [Howard]. I'm always trying to do my homework very fast so I can play with him all the time," she said.

Although the kitten's given name is Howard, Alrashid is considering changing it to Hope.

"I know it's a girl's name, but I feel like it fits him well."

Alrashid said she's thankful for everyone who made her first two wishes come true, especially Neonakis.

"I'm very happy ... I never thought I'd get a kitten or fly over Halifax. It is a dream come true and it's all because of Dimitri."

But Neonakis doesn't intend to stop there. He has since made another Facebook post, sharing Alrashid's story in the form of an open letter to the prime minister.

He's determined to get Trudeau's attention so he can grant Alrashid's final wish — to personally thank Trudeau for allowing her family to come to Canada for her procedure.

"It is now up to you to make the third wish come true," Neonakis wrote in the letter. "We hope that you will consider a meeting with Rama, one of the brightest young Canadians I've ever met."

He said it's a long shot, but it's worth a try.

Alrashid said she's grateful for all of the support she has received since arriving in Canada. She's hopeful other sick children will one day feel just as empowered as she does.

"Whoever had a transplant or whoever is having surgery right now, I wish you luck. Don't be afraid," she said.

"If I did it and it worked for me, it could absolutely, 100 per cent, work for you too. Just keep yourself strong."

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