Cienna and Charlotte

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Cienna and Charlotte at NRL gameWith matching blonde pigtails and big grins, it's easy to see the obvious similarities between 8-year-old twins Cienna and Charlotte. Both girls are known for their thoughtful natures, and always look out for each other.

But when it comes to being loud and funny, that's Cienna through and through. She loves telling jokes, is very switched on and has a curious mind. When she's not playing with her Little Miss Pet Shop toys, she's cuddling real-life animals. Her mum Vanessa describes Cienna as a perfectionist at heart, who aspires to be a hairdresser when she's a grown up.

Charlotte is the quiet achiever of the family.  She loves art and craft and playing with her Barbie dolls.  She's very caring and Vanessa said she's a pillar of strength for Cienna and wants to be a teacher so she can give back to other kids.

Cienna and Charlotte at the park

That strength has helped them all cope with the many battles the close sisters (or 'sissies' as they call each other!) have faced since they were born prematurely.

Vanessa had a complicated pregnancy and the girls were born at just 30 weeks old. As the girls grew, Vanessa became worried that they weren't reaching their milestones, especially Cienna.

"They were about to turn two and Cienna couldn't stand or walk, and Charlotte was also struggling," Vanessa recalls.

Understandably concerned, Vanessa took them to the doctors, but it was thought the delays were due to the girls being premature. 

Six months later, Cienna was referred to a specialist, and Vanessa was told to prepare herself as Cienna had Cerebral Palsy and may never walk.

Vanessa remembers feeling shell-shocked by the revelation and sadly, there was more devastating news to come.

Charlotte was now also being closely monitored and six months later, she too was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy.

Vanessa remembers her whole world changing - at the time, she knew nothing about Cerebral Palsy.

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I had no idea what their future would involve. All I knew was that I was determined to give the girls their best life possible.
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Vanessa, Cienna and Charlotte's mum

It's been an incredibly tough road for Vanessa, who is also the girls' full-time carer and devotes herself to looking after the girls' needs. More recently, the girls have been diagnosed with developmental delays and anxiety, but in spite of it all, she's so thankful for the support of her tight-knit family and how much her girls continue to live life to the full.

Cienna and Charlotte

Cienna and Charlotte have regular medical appointments and require ongoing hospital treatment. They tire easily, and struggle with more than 20 minutes of sustained physical activity.

For support, they wear Ankle Foot Orthopedics which can get them down at times when they want to wear 'normal' girly shoes. Two years ago, Cienna had major surgery to lengthen her leg muscles. She was in a cast for six weeks, confined to a wheelchair and had to learn to walk again. It's expected she'll need more surgery in a few years time. 

One bright light during these painful times in hospital was meeting Captain Starlight in Outpatients. The girls think Captain Starlight is "lots of fun" and it helps them get through hours of waiting around for appointments.

For Cienna, playing with animals is another great distraction. When she's upset, she loves nothing more than cuddling her pets to help her feel better. It's a great comfort to her to have a companion she can confide in and rely on.

Sadly, the family lost one of their beloved dogs this year who Cienna misses dearly. So when Cienna found out both her and Charlotte would be granted a Starlight Wish, she knew what she wanted - to get a new furry family member!

Inspired by the leading dog from Lady and the Tramp, Cienna chose a cocker spaniel!  And she's already picked the name 'Holly' for her new puppy (just in time for Christmas!).

Vanessa said Cienna has been so excited preparing for Holly to arrive. She's bought lots of goodies for her new four-legged friend, and is counting down the days until they meet!

Charlotte's Starlight Wish is something the whole family can enjoy too. She wants them to have their first ever family holiday and they're busy planning a special cruise next year to the Whitsundays! Charlotte's especially keen to check out the Kid's Club and swim in the tropics!

Vanessa said the anticipation of their Starlight Wishes means the world to them.

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The girls feel so thankful to both get something special after being through so much.
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Vanessa, Cienna and Charlotte's mum

Having talked about nothing but the puppy for so long, when the big day finally arrived, the girls were over the moon. In Vanessa's words, "excitement is not a big enough word!"

Cienna's face lit up as soon as she saw little Holly, and she couldn't stop hugging her new puppy! It was such a special moment after everything the family has been through.

Cienna and Charlotte with puppy

Vanessa was so grateful to Starlight supporters for granting her daughter's wish.

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The wish is a really big deal for us. Thank you for making a difference in two little girls' lives.
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Vanessa, Cienna and Charlotte's mum

And in unison, Cienna and Charlotte said: "Thank you for my Starlight Wish!"

Our warmest thanks also to Jet Pets for safely transporting Cienna's precious puppy from Sydney to Queensland.

Stories like these are only made possible thanks to our generous supporters. If you'd like to help make a difference for a child, you can donate below.
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