Otis the Owl worked a little of his magic on Laura Rushforth.
The nine-year-old Harry Potter fan was thrilled to get up close and personal with a real owl, which as any fans of the boy wizard know, are the trusty messengers for Hogwarts students.
“Actually, I thought he was pretty cool,” said Rushforth after she spent more than an hour with Medicine River Wildlife Centre’s popular ambassador.
“And, of course, I got to learn a lot about an owl.”
Rushforth’s special afternoon with Otis came courtesy of Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada, which earlier arranged for Rushforth and her family to visit Universal Studios’ The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in California.
That visit fed Rushforth’s dream of meeting a real owl.
“I like learning about animals and seeing how they survive in the wild,” said Rushforth, who came to her meeting cloaked in a Hogwarts gown and toting her trusty wand.
A Calgary film crew was on hand to make a video of the event for Children’s Wish Foundation.
Rushforth’s cheerful enthusiasm is inspiring considering the battles she has fought over the past couple of years.
A routine visit to the optometrist to check on her blurry vision when she was seven was the beginning of an unimaginable journey. The optometrist detected a slight pulsing in an eye.
Further tests identified a brain tumour and Rushforth had her first brain surgery within a day. More surgeries and chemotherapy would follow and she would lose her eyesight.
Mother Jennifer Rushforth said the Harry Potter trip gave her determined daughter a goal that helped her through the exhausting treatment.
Now, Laura is happy to tell her story to raise awareness and, perhaps, help inspire another youngster facing their own health challenges.
Medicine River executive director Carol Kelly said they loved the opportunity to show Laura around and allow her to spend some quality time with Otis.
“She’s a girl who’s gone through an awful lot,” said Kelly. “I jumped at the chance to do that.”
Working with Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada is just another example of how Medicine River reaches out into the community to spread its messages.
“We got involved with all kinds of seniors homes and different organizations. This is just one more organization where we can make a difference and help them out.”