NEWELL, W.Va. - Colorful Fiesta dinnerware brings a smile to Candy Haugen's face, and, these days, she needs something to smile about.
The 12-year-old girl from Proctorville, Ohio, about 240 miles downriver from Newell, had her wishes come true on Friday when she received a VIP tour of the Homer Laughlin China Co. and got to see how Fiesta is made.
"It was amazing," Candy said afterward. "I learned a lot of different stuff."
Candy's visit, made possible by Homer Laughlin and Make-A-Wish West Virginia, comes two months after she was diagnosed with a form of brain cancer known as diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG). Make-A-Wish grants wishes to children ages 2 1/2 to 18 with life-threatening medical conditions.
Candy said she chose the Fiesta tour as her wish because the distinctive dinnerware, known for its bright colors, has been used by her family for generations, going back to her great-grandmother.
"I just think it's unique," she said, noting that her favorite Fiesta color is Peacock. Her family uses Fiesta dinnerware at meal times, and her dogs, Kay Kay and Cee Cee, eat out of Fiesta bowls.
Candy said she became more aware of Fiesta two years ago when her family visited the Everything Fiesta store at the Flatwoods Factory Stores outlet mall in Sutton, W.Va. Then, in 2012, her aunt returned from one of the Fiesta tent sales with more stories about Fiesta.
"Little things like that added up," said her father, Wally Haugen, 53. "What makes her happy right now is Fiesta. Her eyes just light up when she talks about it, and you can see the joy in her face."
Candy was diagnosed with DIPG, cancer of the brain stem, in July and has been receiving chemotherapy treatment as part of a special study at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, her father said.
"Standard treatment doesn't work for the kind of cancer she has, so we're attacking it aggressively," he said.
The fulfillment of a wish can have a therapeutic effect on children with life-threatening illnesses, said Leandra Hickman, regional manager for the Make-A-Wish Northern West Virginia Regional Office in Morgantown.
"A lot of our Wish kids have come back and said that the wish was really a turning point in that child's treatment," Hickman said. "That's why we do what we do. Anything is possible."
Last year, the Morgantown office, which is responsible for 32 counties, including Hancock County, granted 42 wishes. This year, it hopes to grant 55 wishes, she said.
Hickman said Candy's wish is one of the more unusual ones she's heard of. "She just loves Fiesta ware, and she loves the pieces. She really wanted to go to the factory and see how the china is made and learn about the history," she said.
On Friday, Candy and her family made the six-hour drive, including stops, from Proctorville to Newell and started the tour at 9:30 a.m. With her was her father, her mother, Carol, 56, and her sister, Nicole, 13 - all wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan "Candy's Army: Professional Prayer Partner."
In addition to touring the factory, Candy made personalized mugs for her mother and father with the help of decaler Carletta Moore, of East Liverpool. The mugs will be fired and given to her today, during a Paint-a-Plate event at Homer Laughlin.
"Everyone in the plant has really come together on this," said Homer Laughlin Marketing Manager Dan Williams.
After the tour, Candy received several Homer Laughlin keepsakes, including two Fiesta canisters containing $2,000 in cash. The money had been collected just that morning by employees, Williams said.
Among those attending the presentation were company President Elizabeth McIlvain, Vice President for Manufacturing Ken McElhaney, and Kendel Rutherford, wish grant volunteer for Make-A-Wish in Hancock and Brooke counties.
Homer Laughlin and the Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics & Allied Workers International Union, Local 419, each donated $500 to Make-A-Wish, Williams said.
Candy also got a tour of the Fiesta museum from Homer Laughlin historian David Conley. Afterward, she was presented with a rare Raspberry Fiesta presentation bowl. Williams said only 500 of the bowls were made, and some have been sold at auction for thousands of dollars.