Abigail Tremp ditched her sixth-grade class at Mesa View Middle School in Huntington Beach on Friday morning to help her former elementary school host its annual jog-a-thon.
But little did the 12-year-old know that Harbour View Elementary and the Make-A-Wish Foundation had collaborated to surprise her during the event by granting her wish to travel to Washington, D.C., to learn how the nation's government works.
Abigail, who was born with a congenital heart defect, has had three open-heart surgeries and additional operations.
Her fascination with government began when she learned that students at her middle school were scheduled to take an educational field trip to the nation's capital next school year. She was eager to go with them.
But her excitement waned when she realized she likely would be undergoing surgery again this year and that it would keep her from taking the trip.
Harbour View Elementary students filed onto the blacktop Friday and formed a large "U" shape facing a towering rainbow-like balloon arch. Students who were in on the surprise hid their handmade posters bearing messages such as "You rock, Abigail!" and "Wish granted!"
Abigail's mother, Asea, a volunteer photographer for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, was eager to see her daughter's reaction to the news. Asea Tremp had kept it a secret since December, when she took the idea to the foundation.
After raffle prizes were given to Harbour View students for the jog-a-thon, Huntington Beach Mayor Barbara Delgleize stepped forward with a blue folder in hand.
"As we think about our government today and toward the future, it reminded me of a little girl I heard about," Delgleize said. "I'd like to present [Abigail] with a special certificate for her bravery."
Delgleize handed Abigail the blue envelope. The girl's mouth opened in excitement and shock as she read the message out loud: "Your wish to go to Washington, D.C., is granted."
Students lifted their handmade signs and cheered.
"It's so neat to see the other side of what families experience," Asea said.
Abigail's father, Brian, said he was relieved that his daughter now knows about the trip. It was getting hard to keep it a secret, he said.
The family plans to embark on the journey in coming weeks, before her surgery. Abigail said she's most looking forward to visiting the U.S. Mint.