Making a Furry Wish - A youth utilizes foundation wish to join furries in Pittsburgh
The Make a Wish Foundation is an institution that needs little introduction. Founded in the 1980s, this non-profit out of Phoenix, Arizona helps to bring joy toward youths suffering from critical illnesses by assisting them in fulfilling a dream. These usually can be trips to distant places, meet and greets with celebrities, or sometimes simple and interesting such as wanting to ride the whole New York subway line and collect model trains along the way.
The furry fandom found themselves blessed by one such eccentric wish maker who decided to use her wish to go to Anthrocon in Pittsburgh on its returning year of 2022. Shrimp, a young furry fan who suffers from cystic fibrosis, joined the furs during the festivities as her wish. Like most of the furry youth, most of her content can be found through Tiktok.
With permission from their parents, Shrimp was able to answer questions in regards to her experiences at one of the largest furry conventions in the world. As a bonus, an interview with the parents is also provided in the margin.
Meet the Parents - Meeting the Furries
Shrimp’s parents shared their experiences surrounding their time in Pittsburgh as well. Below are some of their thoughts and feelings surrounding the event.
What did you think of furries before attending Anthrocon?
Before attending Anthrocon, Lainey spent a lot of time explaining furries and their culture to our family. While I thought I was able to explain the furry fandom to others, I decided to do more research on Anthrocon’s website. Between the information I gathered from the website along with what I had learned from Lainey, I was confident in my “furry elevator speech”. Furries are very out-of-the-box thinking people who create and design a creature that they become as soon as they suit up.
Did attending change how you perceived them?
Attending Anthrocon changed how I perceive furries. While I am not a furry, I fully support my daughter’s love for and the enjoyment she finds in the furry community. I’ll admit I thought it was odd that grown people would dress up like creatures and spend a lot of money and time on what appears to be an over-the-top Halloween costume. After meeting other furries, learning of their passions for the community, being a recipient of their kindness, and being overwhelmed by their brilliant creativity, I realized furries are more than anything I could explain in a short trip on the elevator (unless it is one of those rides stopping at each floor of the Westin during Anthrocon)!
What was your favorite experience while in attendance?
While attending Anthrocon, I experienced so many “firsts” that also became “favorites”. Shopping at the dealers' den was a lot of fun. We walked many laps through the den to ensure we made perfect purchases. As a mom, I loved watching my daughter lead the furry parade through the streets of Pittsburgh. Knowing that going to Anthrocon was her wish and she was finally there, plus leading the whole parade, made my heart burst with pride and joy! Personally, I could have sat all day and watched the amazing fursuits pass by. I was in awe and seeing the personality come alive with each furry, was a favorite for me.
What did you learn from attending the furry con?
From attending the furry con, I learned a number of things. One, don’t knock something until you experience it. Lainey’s brothers and stepdad were unsure about attending the con because it isn’t their “thing”, but they ended up having a blast! Secondly, I learned that I have a lot to learn from furries and others do as well, starting off with being kind and accepting others for who they are or want to be. Thirdly, it costs a lot to be a furry and to maintain a furry lifestyle. Lastly, being a furry or in a room with furries in July requires some high-powered fans and nice cool air conditioning!
What do you wish you had more time to see or do?
We were fortunate to have six days in Pittsburgh for Anthrocon, so we were able to see and do a lot of what we wanted. At Anthrocon, Lainey and I could have spent all six days shopping in the dealers’ den because they had so many unique items to purchase
Did you enjoy the city of Pittsburgh?
Our family thoroughly enjoyed Pittsburgh. Everyone in Pittsburgh was so nice and treated us like family. We have adopted Pizza Parama as part of our family, as they treated us to the ultimate VIP service. When we weren't at the con, my husband and I went to the ballfield to watch a Pirate’s game. The family ate at the Fish Grotto and enjoyed a ride on the inclined railway. My husband toured Heinz Field and the history museum. We walked all over Pittsburgh and ate a lot of wonderful food.
Can you think of anything that would have improved your experience for the weekend?
While our experience was nothing short of amazing, we could have improved our experience by slowing down. We were all so very excited and wanted to see it ALL. Trying to see everything at Anthrocon is nearly impossible. We wore ourselves out trying to do and see it all, in turn causing us to not “stop to smell the roses”. Next time, we will make sure to slow down and take everything in for what will make an even more memorable experience (if that is possible).
Did your sons have a good time and what were their experiences from the con?
The boys were hesitant about attending Anthrocon. They are not furries and like most siblings, enjoy making fun of their sister for anything she likes that they do not like (or so they think). Once they got to the con, they were mesmerized. It no longer became something silly or childish that their sister enjoyed, rather they were part of something she had wished to be part of for so long. While I am not sure they were sold about the con at first, after the rave on night one, they were completely sold! The boys had as much fun as their sister and they admitted it! Lainey’s middle brother has asked to go to Anthrocon for his senior trip in 2024!
When did you first discover furry fandom and find interest in it?
I've always really liked anthro animals. When I was really little I'd stuff string in my pants to make a tail or I'd put my arms out to make wings with my jacket. In 2018, around Halloween, I was trying to find a costume that would be impressive and that would make people happy. I looked on youtube for that very costume and came across a unicorn quad suit, and I was in love.
I couldn't stop watching these videos of people in fursuits, dancing around in dance competitions and friends playing around at cons or outside with little kids. One of the first suits that I couldn't stop watching was Telephone. I started watching videos of them being silly or playing around at cons which instantly sucked me in.
This was also around the time that furries were getting popular on tiktok so seeing a bunch of younger furries on Tiktok with dinosaur masks really inspired me to take part in the fandom and suit as well.
The fandom has a variety of groups and arts within, such as drawing, writing, fursuiting, content creation, etc. Of these, are there any interests you partially are drawn to?
I used to be really into making youtube videos or watching furries make content, but i think that Tiktok filled that gap for me. The videos were fun and easy to make, and a bunch of people seem to enjoy the content I made!
Hearing people scream my name at cons and come up to meet me really inspires me to keep making content! I also really enjoy art, I'm not too good at making art myself but I love how much you can express through art.
Fursuiting is also a really big part of the fandom for me, I love having all of these characters and being able to express myself physically in a suit. Suiting is super fun for me and I don't know where I'd be in the fandom if I didn't suit.
Are there any content creators, writers, or artists that you like?
I LOVE toony suits! and my favorite fursuit makers are Oakley’s Creations and StuffedTailsFursuits!
I love the toony style on both of their suits and I'm hoping to get a suit from one of them someday!
I have heard that your folks, when trying to help acquire you a fursuit, had an issue similar to Ruby, the daughter of a Detroit celebrity, and were swindled by an online site. Are there any details of this incident you would wish to share to raise awareness of this issue?
There really isn't much to add about this situation.
All the advice I can give is, avoid suits that are less than $100 and if you see a suit that has multiple copies of it that look exactly the same, don't buy it.
Fursuits are things that are expensive for a reason, unless you want to be scammed or let down by the quality of the suit, I'd save up!
I save up money from birthdays and different holidays and I now have two wonderful furry heads that are high quality and will last long!
You could have chosen a wide variety of wishes. What made you ultimately decide to have your wish be for attending a furry convention?
Around 6th grade I was really interested in history and seeing historical places. The first place that we were really close to going to was Germany. We had everything planned out but then the pandemic hit. My school year was cut short and I wasn't allowed anywhere, in fear that I would catch the virus and end up in the hospital.
When we started talking about Make A Wish again, I was in 8th grade and I was no longer interested in going. Also, Make a Wish wasn't letting anyone out of the country for safety reasons.
I originally wanted to get a fursuit made but I decided to go to a convention instead. It was a once in a lifetime experience and I wouldn't trade it for anything else. Going to Anthrocon was the best decision I ever made.
What was your favorite moment of the convention?
Meeting all of the people! I met so many incredible people that I've been watching for years on Youtube, and I got to meet people that had been following me on Tikok and Instagram for a while. The people around me made the experience ten times better than it already was.
Are there any things that you wish your past self knew before stepping into the convention that would have helped improve your first experience, or lessons to apply for future conventions?
I wish I knew not to do everything at once.
I was so excited for the con and everything that was happening around me that I got overwhelmed by everything. I was running around everywhere, trying to do everything at once and it got insanely overwhelming.
Apparently I was impossible to keep up with and find, I was speed walking everywhere and I never really took the time to calm down and admire most of the things around me. Being at a huge furry convention for the first time was incredible but it got overwhelming at times.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you rate your first convention experience in Pittsburgh?
Any interest in attending other conventions such as your local convention in Atlanta, GA (Furry Weekend Atlanta) or re-attending Anthrocon?
I'm going to FWA for my birthday in May and my siblings and I are planning on going to a couple comic and anime conventions throughout the year.
My brother (16) is already planning on going back to Anthrocon for his senior trip after he graduates. We all really enjoy going to conventions and cosplaying so it's something that we plan on doing all year round.
What are future goals of yours within the furry fandom?
Maybe get Shrimp, my fursona, a bodysuit!
Dealing with Cystic Fibrosis
The disease of cystic fibrosis revolves around the body being constantly over productive in mucus generation. This constant mucus abundance can lead to a variety of impacts on the body and can affect the respiratory and digestive systems from being able to function properly.
How would you describe living with Cystic Fibrosis and the challenges it presents?
Living with CF (cystic fibrosis) is hard. My lungs are in pretty good shape considering the disease. Although fursuiting with a lung disease makes it harder, I'm glad I'm still ok enough to run around and breathe semi-normally.
I've always had a hard time properly digesting anything, as most CF people do. Medicine doses kept creeping up on me and hospital visits got more frequent. Luckily I recently got a [gastrostomy tube] that made hospital visits less frequent, but the problems are still here.
Getting older made taking pills harder to take and treatments got harder to get motivation to do, being older makes me aware of my problems and what i'm going through which sometimes scares me. I try to make it through all of the treatments and procedures in hopes it'll get better, all I can really do is hope it'll get better.
Is there any advice that you would have in dealing with those challenges?
Just keep going. I know it is insanely difficult to not give up on everything that you've tried but there is still a chance that it'll get better.
Don't focus on making yourself better for the people around you, focus on doing it for you. get better for yourself. You've got this and you will make it through it!