Family creates bucket list for baby with terminal illness

(WRIC/ABC) — The family of a terminally ill infant girl is making sure she gets the most out of her little life by checking items off of a bucket list they created after she was diagnosed with a genetic disorder that gave her two years to live.

“Mainly we are trying to create memories for our daughter that every kid should experience,” dad Cory Mars of Neenah, Wisconsin, told ABC News. “People have been helping us check things off her bucket list. It makes me see as a father that there are good people out there.”

“They are helping us fill my daughter’s life with happy things,” he said.

Zailynn Mars was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy n August 14, 2015. (Photo courtesy Cory Mars via ABC News)
Zailynn Mars was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy n August 14, 2015. (Photo courtesy Cory Mars via ABC News)

Mars said it was on August 14 when his daughter, Zailynn, who is now 8-months-old, was diagnosed with type 1 spinal muscular atrophy, which affects the motor nerve cells in the spinal cord, taking away the ability to walk, eat or even breathe.

“That day, it kind of plays over in my head pretty much every day,” Mars said. “Her life expectancy, rarely do they [children] see over 2 years old. I couldn’t stand there and have someone tell me that my daughter wasn’t going to be with me for as long as she should be, until I’m an old man.”

“Children that have SMA, there’s a quality of life you have to decide as a parent,” he added. “We want her to be happy and experience the fun things. When it comes to her staying in a hospital more time than she’s been out of a hospital, that’s where I draw the line.”

In an effort to give Zailynn the happiest times of her life, her dad and the rest of the Mars family created a bucket list for her. It’s composed of 51 items.

“Number one is to have daddy walk me down the aisle,” Mars said. “Being able to walk my daughter down the aisle at her wedding is the best thing I’d ever do that I’d never be able to do.”

In order to improvise for life moments such as weddings and prom, Mars said he was able to walk with Zailynn down the aisle at a friend’s September wedding.

For No. 29 on the list — go to prom and have pictures taken — family and friends are hosting a mock prom for Zailynn at the family’s local church in Fairwater, Wisconsin.

Mars said his main objectives are to enjoy the time he has with Zailynn and to promote awareness for SMA.

“With my daughter’s story, we want her to bring a positive impact on everybody’s life,” Mars said. “She a very excited baby — happy to see anybody. If you look into her stroller, you’ll definitely get a smile. She’s 100 percent a daddy’s girl.”

Zailynn’s Bucket List

  • Daddy walks me down the aisle–completed.
  • Milwaukee Zoo–completed.
  • Family pictures –scheduled.
  • Sibling pictures–scheduled.
  • Visit a farm–completed.
  • Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois
  • Disneyland
  • Go to a movie
  • Go to the beach
  • Visit the ocean
  • Draw my name in the sand–completed.
  • Get on the Ellen show to get SMA awareness out there
  • Boat ride
  • Children’s museum–completed.
  • Paint a picture–completed.
  • Celebrate life on the 12th of every month—completed.
  • Dress up like a princess–completed.
  • Get my nails painted–completed.
  • Go on a train ride
  • Brewers game
  • Football game
  • Play in the leaves
  • Go fishing and catch a fish
  • Get held by the fireman for a picture–completed.
  • Make a snow angel
  • Build a snow man
  • Celebrate Christmas
  • Host a first birthday/meet and greet–scheduled.
  • Go to prom and have pictures taken–scheduled
  • Go to a concert
  • Meet John Cena and the Rock
  • Get a ride on a horse
  • Get sent flowers–done
  • Send a gift to someone special–completed.
  • Have a picnic at the park
  • Let a balloon go–done
  • Sing karaoke with daddy–scheduled.
  • Celebrate Thanksgiving–scheduled.
  • Go down a slide at the park
  • Go for a sled ride
  • Meet Santa get a picture with him–completed.
  • Go swimming–completed.
  • Bake cookies–scheduled.
  • Be in two places at once
  • Get pictures taken in my mom’s wedding dress–completed.
  • Go to a parade
  • Hang out with a ninja
  • Have someone sing to me–completed.
  • Hang an ornament on the Christmas tree–completed.
  • Watch daddy and mommy carve pumpkins–completed.
  • Receive a letter from a pen pal–completed.
  • Go mudding–completed.

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