Make-a-Wish Foundation awards local children their heart’s desire

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

Mar. 12, 2007 - We’ve all seen them on TV and in the news, some of us have even known them — the children who get their heart’s desire. At some point, most of us get a little teary when the youngsters, who must be 2 1/2 to 18 years, and their families talk about their battle with the life-threatening illness which qualified them to have their favorite wish granted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

In November, the North Texas foundation awarded Sulphur Springs High School student Patrick Collins, son of Paul and Cheryl Nortin a custom built “super-duper” gaming computer. The teen had a successful heart transplant in June 2006, and stayed by his sister’s side in Houston through the summer supporting her during her recovery from the same ailment–restrictive hypertropic cardiomyopathy. The cardiac disease is marked by thickening of the heart muscle, which often causes shortness of breath, exercise intolerance, chest pain or pressure, and fainting, and can even lead to heart failure. He was undergoing treatment at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston as he battled the moderate stages of the disease.

In February 2006, Holdan Culpepper, son of Amy and Dale Perkins and Jason Culpepper, was awarded a 7-day Disney World adventure for him, his parents, two brothers and a set of grandparents by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Holdan was diagnosed at age 4 with juvenile dermatomyositis, an autoimmune disease in which his body’s immune system attacks its own cells and tissues. The disease is marked by extreme fatigue, muscle pain and weakness so bad walking and common childhood activities such as climbing and running are almost impossible. The ailment was in remission when he was awarded the 7-day adventure which included a stay at Give Kids The World village, a 51-acre nonprofit resort that partners with more than 300 wish-granting organization from around the world; and visits to Disney World, Sea World, Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdoms, Universal and MGM studios as well as Gator Land.

Make-A-Wish granted Channing Horton a seven-night all expense paid trip to Oahu, Hawaii, along with parents Paul and Cindy, and her best friend, so that she could fulfill her wish of swimming in the sea with dolphins. She was remission after grueling rounds of chemotherapy which required he to have “ports” implanted under her skin for easy administration of medication. She suffered from Hepatocellular carcinoma, a rare lifer cancer practically unheard of in children.

Horton was the sixth child in Hopkins County since 1998 to have a wish granted by Make-A-Wish Foundation. Other wishes granted to local children have included three trips to Disney World, a bedroom make-over and a  trip to the set of Wheel of Fortune.

Kendall Smith also recently was awarded a trip to New York to see Broadway shows. Smith, who suffers from Hodgkins Disease, attended six plays and got to meet Harry Connick Jr. and visited the Brooklyn Bridge, Ground Zero and China Town, the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building.

So how does the Make-A-Wish Foundation know which children to grant wishes to, what their individual wishes are and how do they make it happen?

First a child must be referred by one of three sources: medical professionals treating the child, the child’s parent or legal guardian, or a potential wish child. Friends and other family members of the child can make the initial report, but strongly encouraged to contact the child’s parents t have them apply directly. After the application is filed, the child’s medical history is checked to see if that child meets certain medical guidelines. The child’s doctor is contacted to verify criteria.

Any child between the ages of 2 1⁄2 and 18 who has been diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition may be considered for our program. Medical eligibility is based on national guidelines and is ultimately determined by the child’s physician. The child can’t have previously have received a wish from Make-A-Wish Foundation or any other wish-granting organization. The family’s financial status is not a factor, and no child who meets program criteria is turned away. 

Those referring Hopkins County and other area children need to contact the Northeast Texas Regional Office in  Tyler at (903)597-9474 or fax applications to (903)597-9475.

Questions concerning a child’s eligibility for a wish should be directed to Berta James, program services director, at (214)496-5021. Healthcare providers may contact James for a copy of the medical guidelines used to determine eligibility.

So far, Make-A-Wish has never had to turn a wish down because of a lack of funds, however, the program is dependent on not only individuals who volunteer their time to act as wish-granters or assist with special events but also contributions from individuals and corporations, such as Grocery Supply Co. which for the past two years has donated a portion of the $70,000 plus raised during its annual fundraiser for local charities to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.  In fact, wish granters noted that Smith’s wish was funded solely with the funds contributed by GCS Enterprises. As noted above, the wish foundation also included all immediate family members such as parents and siblings in wish-granting activities

There are currently more than 30 children in the North Texas wish area whose wishes are pending verification of authenticity and funding approval. Most of them are for trips to Walt Disney World, some to Hawaii, one to Costa Rica, two to Australia, one to the Hawaiian Pro Bowl and one for a computer.

In order to continue granting wishes, the Make-A-Wish of North Texas needs more volunteers and donations to ensure its success. Donations may be as little or as much as the person, organization, family or business has to give, including in-kind matches in some cases.

Volunteer opportunities include wish granting, special events, community relations, corporate fund-raising, public speaking and many other essential areas.

This area is especially in need of wish-granters, volunteers who work directly with local wish children and their families to determine the child’s favorite wish, then utilizes Make-A-Wish Foundation resources to make that wish come true.

Anyone interested in nominating a child, becoming a wish-granter, Make-A-Wish volunteer or donating should call Billie Milner at the Northeast Texas Regional Office, 903-597-9474, or go online to the area Make-A-Wish web site: www.northtexaswish.org for information or to download an application.

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