Dad Makes Bucket List For Terminally Ill Daughter

When you welcome each one of your children you have hopes and dreams for them.  You want them to see some of the incredible things you have seen, and do things you weren’t able to.  But for one Wisconsin family, their time with their baby girl will be cut very short so they are crossing their dream list off one by one, in an effort to show her the world.

zailynn Mars

On Aug. 14  Zailynn Mars, who’s now 8 months old, was diagnosed with type 1 spinal muscular atrophy, a Neurological Disorders that 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,” Zailynn’s dad Cory Mars told ABC News. “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 of 51 items to check off.

“Number one is to have daddy walk me down the aisle,” Cory 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, Cory said he was able to walk with Zailynn down the aisle at a friend’s September wedding.

Family and friends will also be holding a mock prom for her at the family’s local church.

Cory’s goal is to enjoy the time he has with his daughter and to promote awareness for spinal muscular atrophy.

“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
  • 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.


About the author

Lisa Arneill

Mom of 2 boys and founder of and World Traveled Family. When I'm not running around after my boys, I'm looking for our next vacation spot!

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