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Girl, horse 'both spirited, both spunky'

By Chuck Frederick

Duluth News Tribune

DULUTH -- A single wish helped Brittany Rezmerski endure months of body casts, chemotherapy and wheelchairs.

On Nov. 20, her wish came true.

The 13-year-old middle school student received a horse of her own to love, ride and thank for the hope that pulled her through a lengthy battle with cancer.

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The horse is hers courtesy of the international nonprofit Make-A-Wish Foundation, Domino's Pizza, the generosity of a Duluth stable owner and others.

"He's like, just perfect, really," Rezmerski said while embracing the horse, Gitch, at West Amity Stables on the eastern outskirts of Duluth.

The girl has come a long way since Friday the 13th in October 1999. She fell off her bike and tumbled down a hill, shattering her hip. Six surgeries followed. So did half a year in a wheelchair, months of casts that stretched from her belly to her toes, and one chilling discovery.

In February 2000, doctors found a cancerous tumor on her hip. She was 10 years old.

Rezmerski underwent 14 months of chemotherapy.

The family started talking with Make-A-Wish, an agency that fulfills dreams for terminally ill children. After confirming Rezmerski's prognosis, the foundation sat down with her and her family to find out what Rezmerski would like.

Make-A-Wish grants about 200 wishes a year in Minnesota, including a handful in the northeastern corner of the state.

"This one is really unique," said Carol Bistodeau, the wish coordinator for the nonprofit's Minnesota chapter, based in Fridley. "Lots of kids want to go to Disney World or they want to meet someone or have something like a new computer. This is a little girl who wants a horse to love. This is a dream come true."

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Brittany dreamed about being able to ride a horse again and having one of her own. She had taken her first ride at the age of 8 at Girl Scout camp. She instantly fell in love with the bond between rider and animal.

"This horse helped her so much getting through those hard times," her mother, Marysia Bubacz, said at the stables. "That's what got her through. I believe that."

Months of searching for just the right horse led the foundation and family back to the stable where Rezmerski had been riding and taking lessons during the past year. She always rode Gitch, a 3-year-old Tennessee walker, a horse bred for its smooth gait.

"You never match a young horse to a young rider, but nothing else worked with Brittany. We just had to," said Rose LaFleur, owner of West Amity Stables.

LaFleur agreed to sell Gitch to Make-A-Wish and Domino's Pizza, who in turn are giving the animal to Rezmerski. LeFleur agreed on a price of $3,000, even though a horse like Gitch normally goes for at least $4,500.

"It's important for a kid to bond with a horse," LaFleur said. "For her, it was only Gitch. She just loves him, and he just loves her."

Rezmerski now appears to have beaten cancer and is in remission, her mother said. She takes riding lessons once a week and travels from her home in Gary-New Duluth to visit Gitch at least one other time every week.

"She can't run, but she can ride a horse. And we're trying to concentrate on the things she can do," Bubacz said, gazing at daughter and horse. "They're a good match. They're both spirited, both spunky. They were made for each other."

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