03/15/2011 2:15PM

At Golden Gate, a girl's wish fulfilled


Sierra Olson, like many 14-year-old girls, loves horses. She has a room filled with horse posters, horse show ribbons, horse figurines, horses on her bed linen, and even an old saddle.

She also has Evans Syndrome, an autoimmune disease in which the body makes antibodies that destroy the red blood cells, platelets and white blood cells. Symptoms can include weakness and fatigue, and a susceptibility to bleeding or infections.

But Olson’s disease that has not robbed her of her passion for horses or desire to become a veterinarian.

Olson, her parents, Darci and Dylan, her brother, Eli, and sister, Annika, were special backstretch visitors at Golden Gate Fields on Saturday, arriving in a limousine courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Olson was a special guest of trainer Terry Knight and shadowed Knight’s veterinarian Dr. Ken Alison during her day on the backstretch.

Plans for the day began in December when Olson and 20 other Make-A-Wish youngsters visited the Golden State Warriors’ practice facility in Oakland. Warriors president Robert Rowell, who owns horses, met Olson and found out about her love of horses. He called Knight, his trainer, to set plans in motion and pressed to make the day happen.

Knight’s daughter Shari works for the Warriors and helped to coordinate the special day.

“I’m so proud of my dad,” said Shari Knight. “He never talks about himself or what he does, but for the past couple months this is all we’ve talked about. The whole day touched everybody’s heart. I think it was more special for Sierra than anyone ever thought.”

Terry Knight deflected any credit for the day.

“When they approached me, I said we could make it happen,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to do something nice. I was just glad to be able to it.”
Olson arrived at the track wearing her riding boots. She visited with the horses in Knight’s barn and did rounds with Alison. She watched a surgery in the track’s equine hospital and actually helped Alison remove a staple from a horse’s head.

“I thought it was really cool,” Olson said about removing the staple.

“From the moment she got to the barn, she was glowing,” said Shari Knight. “She wasn’t scared or skittish around the horses. “She tires easily, but she spent five hours here and was really engaged. She was in her element.”

Olson said “just being around all the horses” was what she liked most about her visit.

And there’s more to come for her.

Knight has given her the responsibility of naming a foal for him, and Olson and her family will spend the first weekend in April at Legacy Ranch in Clements as the guests of Knight clients Pete and Evelyn Parella. Olson is hoping that she’ll get to see a live equine birth there.