This New Year’s Eve more than two million people filled the streets of Times Square to watch the ball drop in the Big Apple.
While many of those revelers had to wait outside for hours to join in the festivities, one South Dakota teen was a VIP guest at this year's celebration.
New Year’s Eve was truly a dream come true for 17-year-old Alexis Mentzel. The Mitchell teen has battled cancer for the past year, but thanks to Make-A-Wish South Dakota she was treated like a celebrity in New York City.
“I didn't assume I’d do it again and wanted to pick something I’d always remember,” Mentzel said before her trip.
She left for New York City a few days early, simply hoping to see the ball drop in person, but she experienced so much more this New Year’s Eve.
“My sister kept joking with me that I was famous because we really did feel like that,” Mentzel said.
Alexis and her family were VIP guests all night. They were able to meet with the NYPD Police Commissioner and were escorted to Times Square by a motorcade where they had full access all night.
“Everyone was taking pictures of us because they thought we were famous because the high end people walk on that side of the fences,” Mentzel said.
“We had access to the area where pretty much only the NYPD was allowed so we got right up by all of the stages,” Alexis’s mom Misty Zilla said.
Mentzel said they were actually able to see Ryan Seacrest live on the stage before heading inside a nearby sky-scraper for a VIP party. When it came time for the moment, they had a one-of-a-kind view of the ball drop.
“It was just us, like the whole 22nd floor was just us,” Mentzel said. “You looked off the balcony and the ball was right there.”
“It’s something we never would have been able to do on our own without Make-A-Wish,” Zilla said.
It was an unforgettable celebration of a new year Alexis is grateful to experience.
“You're not sure if she's going to wake up from one day to the next,” Zilla said of her daughter’s treatment. “To see her go through all of this, losing her hair, being sick from all of the chemo and missing school and missing out on life really…so for her to just be able to catch up and live some life and do things that not everybody else gets to do, it was awesome.”
It's a memory the South Dakota teenager will always cherish.
“A piece of confetti ironically fell inside my purse so I have that to keep forever,” Mentzel said.
Her family is happy to report Alexis is now in remission after battling stage three Hodgkin’s lymphoma since October 2015.
Both Alexis and her mom expressed their extreme gratitude for Make-A-Wish South Dakota and everyone in the state who has donated money or their time to help make this experience possible.