Make-A-Wish Central and Western North Carolina is proud to announce that we have been granting the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses for 30 years! To celebrate, we’re recounting a dozen stories in the coming months that represent the mission and children we serve. It has been an exciting journey full of hope, strength and joy. We start this year with Hope’s story. As many who are familiar with our chapter may remember, Hope was a special little girl with an equally special wish.
She was able to unite an entire community and rally thousands around a single wish – help grant the wishes of all the wish children in Central and Western North Carolina. Her wish captivated the city of Charlotte and shed a spotlight on the vital impact a wish plays on not only wish children and their families but our community as a whole.
In June 2003, Hope was much like any twelve-year-old girl. She was looking forward to a summer of swimming at the pool, trips to the mall and movies and her family’s annual beach trip. A persistent pain in her knee changed all that and after some tests, she was diagnosed with bone cancer.
Instead of a summer of fun, Hope began to undergo painful and lengthy chemotherapy treatments. Hope never lost her sense of humor or her optimism that she would beat this cancer. Unfortunately, the treatments did little to stop the disease from spreading and by November, Hope was confined mostly to a wheelchair. But then something magical happened … and it changed many lives in the process.
Make-A-Wish visited Hope in November 2003. They told Hope she could have anything she wanted; to just name it. Hope thought for a few minutes and then answered: “You know, I am lucky … I have been to Disney World, swam with the dolphins in Cancun and go to the beach all the time. You say there are 155 kids on the waiting list? Well, my wish is TO GRANT ALL THEIR WISHES, ALL 155 OF THEM. And to do it just as soon as possible.”
Even though Make-A-Wish was faced with a herculean task–Hope’s wish would cost nearly $750,000—they sprang into action. A local company got the ball rolling with a $25,000 donation; the Charlotte Observer ran a December 19 story on Hope which local WBT radio personality Keith Larson picked up on during his morning radio show. He had Hope on for what is now a legendary interview; one that is replayed every Christmas; the Carolina Panthers went on a roll, winning game after game en route to the NFC Championship and a Super Bowl appearance. While all of this was swirling a mid-January black tie, “Rat Pack” themed event was planned, aptly named, THE CELEBRATION OF HOPE. Appropriate because Hope pretty much planned the event; right down to the last detail.
Unfortunately, she didn’t live to see it. Hope passed away on January 4, 2004, surrounded by her family and her precious kitties.
After her death, donations poured into the Make-A-Wish office at such a fast rate that volunteers had to be brought in to count money and answer the phones. Children brought in the contents of their piggy banks; girls donated their babysitting money; a homeless man in Charlotte walked into the MAW offices and gave what little he had. He told the stunned volunteers, “it isn’t much but I want to help Hope.”
On Friday, January 16, the Celebration of Hope gala was held at the Westin in Charlotte, NC. Over 1,000 people attended the event. At 11:00pm, emcee Keith Larson announced to the stunned crowd that $1,116,000 had been raised and the money was still coming in. All of the kids would have their wish granted. Hope’s Wish had been fulfilled.