Making wishes come true in the lives of critically ill children has been the life's work of people like Kim Terrell of Olive Branch, a former Make-A-Wish program manager.
Terrell, DeSoto County Tourism Association Executive Director, was in her official position with Make-A-Wish of the Mid-South for two years and has been a volunteer for nearly a quarter century.
Terrell, along with a host of other volunteers, has worked tirelessly to fulfill the wishes of children in the critical stages of severe, life-threatening illnesses.
Along the way, Terrell has often fulfilled the wishes of children who often don't have the luxury of a great deal of time left to spend with loved ones.
"Working with critically ill children was one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done in my life," Terrell said. "You learn from each child. Each one is unique."
Many of those children live right here in DeSoto County and Make-A-Wish is making a monumental effort this year to reach out for corporate and individual sponsors to help make these wishes come true. A Walk For Wishes event is planned for Nov. 9 at Snowden Grove Park.
Make-A-Wish of the Mid-South's "Walk For Wishes Kick-Off Party" is this Monday from 5:30 until 7:30 p.m. at Memphis Pizza Cafe in Southaven.
"We want to showcase DeSoto County," said Terrell, adding that Monday night's kick-off party is a way to honor sponsors and volunteers. The general public is also invited to attend.
Amanda Wiig, Communications Manager at Make-A-Wish, said she is excited about the possibilities that the DeSoto County Make-A-Wish efforts can make in the lives of area children and their families.
"The mission and livelihood of Make-A-Wish thrive on bringing happiness to seriously-ill children," Wiig said. "I believe that joy and hope have the ability to strengthen a family during the most difficult moments in life and that a wish can provide a family the balance they need to make it to a better tomorrow. Through financial funding, volunteer support and in-kind contributions, Make-A-Wish acts as the tool to make wishes come true. We support Make-A-Wish financially because we know wish families do not pay for expenses associated with wishes and because a wish can have a life-changing impact on a child."
Wiig said she has seen miracles take place firsthand.
"Make-A-Wish is incredible," Wiig said. "When you donate, you get to see your dollars in action. We work so hard to make sure all of your contributions go to the kids. A total of 82 percent goes right back to the kids. It is really worth your while."
Wayne Spell with Entergy is one of those volunteers who stepped up to volunteer.
"Kim asked me if I would help and I was glad to do so," Spell said. "I am fortunate to work for a company that invests in the community."
Mary Susan Asters, Development Officer for Make-A-Wish, said the nonprofit has had a far-reaching effect across the community.
"Make-A-Wish of the Mid-South granted 268 wishes last fiscal year - each one a life-affirming testament to hope, inspiration and resilience," Asters said. "Wishes strengthen wish kids and their families, rally communities together, and change the lives of everyone involved."
Asters said when she and her husband moved to Memphis, they wanted to find a non-profit charity that made a meaningful impact upon the community. The couple found it in Make-A-Wish.
"If you've ever been to a Make-A-Wish reveal you'll know what I'm talking about," Asters said. "These kids — after being in the hospital and being poked and prodded — get to have this wonderful, insane experience. There are so many tiny details that go into making each wish reveal special. It's so fantastic."
Amanda Wood with the Northwest Mississippi Association of Realtors said the wishes "mean the world" to the children, "whether it's a new pair of shoes to helping them push through treatment."
As a Make-A-Wish mom, Michelle Russell knows the impact that Make-A-Wish can have on a child.
Her son Reid, a Northpoint Christian School student, was diagnosed in 2015 with Rhabdomyosarcoma, cancer of the soft-tissue which often affects the young, when he was in the second grade.
As a St. Jude patient, he had to endure a year-long bout of chemotherapy.
"There was a light at the end of the tunnel thanks to Make-A-Wish," Russell said.
Reid received a Make-A-Wish trip to London and to the set of the new Star Wars movie, set for release next year.
"Reid always tells every child to dream big and keep on dreaming big things," his mom Michelle said. "The community has a chance to help. Unfortunately, there are a lot of children who qualify for Make-A-Wish. They discover the light that Make-A-Wish can shine on their lives."
Geri Hill, Social Media Coordinator for the DeSoto County School District, said she has seen up close the impact that Make-A-Wish has made on the lives of DeSoto County's critically ill children and families.
Each year, hundreds of students turn out at wish reveal events throughout the year.
"I am pretty passionate about children and want to see the greater good in their lives," Hill said. "These children have something to hope for and dream for — to make it through today and make it until tomorrow."
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.