Kendra Baker photos
Thanks to 11-year-old Anna Getner, of Wilton, rescue dogs at the Pet Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) in Norwalk have a brand new indoor playroom where they can play and meet potential adopters.

Anna wished for the playroom through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses.

Anna, who was diagnosed with leukemia in 2013 and recently received news that she is in remission, was greeted by friends and family as she arrived at PAWS in a stretch limousine for the Thursday, Feb. 18 unveiling of the playroom.

Make-A-Wish Connecticut President and CEO Pam Keough said Anna’s wish is unlike any she has ever seen before.

“Make-A-Wish has been around some 30-odd years and we’ve done 205 wishes, and I don’t know of doing any wish like this before,” said Keough. “This is so unique and just a testament to Anna to choose to give back and help the animals.”

Make-A-Wish Development Director Kim Smith presented Anna with a key to PAWS and Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling read a mayoral proclamation thanking Anna on behalf of the City of Norwalk.

“In your lifetime, you people [who are] courageous; some of them are compassionate; some of them work very hard to give to others; some are kind — but every now and then you meet a remarkable person who has all of those qualities, and I’m truly impressed to meet Anna,” said Rilling.

“She could’ve had anything she wanted, but she used her wish to ... arrange for these puppies to have a place where they can play; where they can grow and nurture, and where they can find a good home where they can spend the rest of their lives.”

Rilling also thanked all the companies and organizations that helped make Anna’s wish come true, the names of which decorate one of the playroom walls.

Keough said at least 13 groups, including Blue Buffalo, came together to help turn Anna’s wish into reality.

“This doesn’t happen without a community coming together,” she said, “so thank you to everyone who made this happen.”

“We went to meet with Anna to ask her what her one true wish was ... and it was amazing that a young girl would [want] this,” said Kim Smith.

Anna and Smith went to PAWS to look at the room that would become Anna’s Dog Park.

“We looked at the room and we saw it was not as pretty,” said Smith.

They decided to take pictures from the room and use them to make a mosaic that now spells out “Anna” on the back wall of the playroom, and Mark Haversat, owner of Robbins Tesar, Inc. and member of Make-A-Wish’s board of directors, helped create a mural that covers the walls, featuring a photo of Anna and her dog Franklin, who was adopted from PAWS.

Anna’s stepfather John Schiaroli, who said her wish to give back is “amazing” and he “couldn’t be more proud,” read a letter from Anna, who was “a little speechless” during the unveiling of the room.

Schiaroli said Anna thanked everyone involved in making her wish come true and is “very happy” her wish was granted because she “wanted to help the animals find a new home.”

“I love animals, especially dogs, and it makes me sad when they don’t have a home,” Schiaroli quoted Anna.

“We rescued my dog, Franklin, four years ago. He’s like a brother to me. I hope that all the animals at PAWS find a forever home and make families happy, the same way Franklin has made me happy.”

PAWS is a shelter at 504 Main Ave. in Norwalk that not only provides shelter, medical care and affection to animals, but also helps find loving homes for homeless and abused dogs and cats. Click here to learn more about PAWS.

Click here to learn more about Make-A-Wish Connecticut.