Granting wishes to local children
By JENNIFER MINYARD
The Bolivar Bullet
The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Mississippi was founded in 1984 in memory of a little girl from Gulfport. After she was diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition, a group of caring individuals raised funds to send her, along with her mother and grandmother, to Walt Disney World. The foundation’s mission continues today as about 165 children are newly diagnosed with critical medical conditions each year, and the Wish Granter volunteers work to grant the wish of every eligible child.
One of those Wish Granters serving the Delta area is Cleveland native, Kristi Taylor.
“I’ve been a Wish Granter for about 10 years, and I sit on the board for the Evening of Wishes gala,” said Taylor. “As a Wish Granter, I get to meet the children and their families when they first get on our list, help figure out what they want their wish to be, send in the paperwork and then come back to them when their wish is ready to be revealed, and arrange a wish reveal party and send-off to wherever they are going on their wish.”
Unlike in years past, children being granted wishes no longer must have a terminal illness thanks to advances in medicine. However, they still must have a critical illness.
“Our mission statement is, ‘We grant life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses in our local community,’” said Taylor. “We’ve definitely grown in the past 10 years. It used to be only for terminal illnesses, but that’s no longer true thanks to advances in medicine that have found cures for illnesses that were terminal in the past. So, we’re down to critical illnesses which is a great thing, and we’re able to grant more wishes.”
The most touching part of her job is helping the children to decide what their wish will be and turn that dream into a reality.
“Most children choose Disney,” said Taylor. “We just granted a wish for a child here in Cleveland for her, her mom, her grandmother, brother and sister, and they all went to Disney.”
Some of the wishes Taylor has able to help grant include a child who chose to go to the Indianapolis Colts stadium, where he got to meet and have lunch with some of the players and go on the field, another child asked for a playground in his backyard, one wanted a trip to Hawaii, and another wanted a PlayStation.
They can wish for pretty much anything, no matter how elaborate.
“I met a little boy the other day, bless his sweet little soul, and the wish went right over his head as to how big and how amazing he could ask for,” she said. “He said all he wanted was to go to the mall and go to the arcade, and I said ‘Baby you don’t have to settle for the Greenville Mall. Let’s go big,’ and he was like, ‘I can go anywhere?’, and I was like, ‘Yes, anywhere.’ So, we had a long talk, and he was so excited when I left his house for what he could dream, and he was truly amazed that his dream could come true.”
Another unusual wish that recently touched Taylor came from an 18-year-old girl in Greenwood.
“She has brain cancer. She wanted to have everything that she could have for an apartment when she gets to move out, so one day if she gets well enough, she’ll get to move out and she’ll have everything she needs,” she said. “That shopping spree touches me, and now she’s got the microwave, rugs, everything she’ll need to move out on her own, and I was so excited when I revealed her wish.”
In order to be able to grant these wishes, funds must be raised. The average wish costs $6,500. One major fundraising event is the Evening of Wishes gala. This fundraiser features a live auction and silent auction. This year it will be held from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. on Thursday, November 16 at Harlow’s Casino in Greenville.
“It’s strictly a fundraiser. There will be a live auction and a silent auction,” said Taylor. “We will have a couple children that we granted wishes for that will be there, and we’ll have a wish family that has never received their wish and we do try to grant their wish that night but it’s a complete surprise to them. We are just preparing for that event and trying to raise as much as we can to help grant as many wishes as we can for Delta children. We’re being told by doctors that we’re going to have an influx of about 50 kids this year. Right now, I’ve had about five, and I’m not the only Wish Granter in the Delta. I’m going to say by the end of the year I will probably have 10, and that’s just myself, not counting the other wish granters in our area.”
If you are interested in volunteering with Make-A-Wish Mississippi or in tickets for this year’s gala, call Kristi Taylor at 901-378-1723 or Micah Uline at 731-607-6411