The day Make-A-Wish Middle Tennessee granted its 1500th wish was an eye-opening day for me. It was the day I realized two essential things about this organization. The first realization happened when I was walking out of Publix, carrying so many balloons, I thought I may lift straight off the ground. As I was maneuvering these huge balloons into my tiny clown car a thought struck me: these balloons symbolize more than just a number.
What do 1,500 wishes really mean? During my time as an intern, I’ve seen behind the scenes, so to speak of Make-A-Wish Middle Tennessee. I’ve watched many volunteers take time out of their days to grant wishes, staff members bend over backward to make a child’s desires a reality, and the community rally in ways I didn’t think were possible. All of this was done in the name of making a wish come true for children with life-threatening conditions. Those balloons represented 17 years of lives being changed forever. As I pulled out toward the airport, my mind was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the symbolism that was riding in my backseat.
The second realization came about 20 minutes before Fallon, our 1500th wish kid arrived back home. More than 30 adults waited anxiously in the BNA airport terminal while the band play “Wish Upon a Star.” People passed us—some looked at us with curiosity, others looked at us like we all had four arms. I’m sure we looked absurd to the average passerby. News cameras, Southwest Airlines and BNA employees, a band and dozens of adults, all decked out in balloon Mickey ears grinning from ear to ear, were anxiously awaiting a little girl’s arrival. I looked around and tried to imagine what people were thinking when they saw us. “Those people are crazy” definitely had to be the number one response. In this moment, when I least expected it, I was overwhelmed with emotion. My second revelation was this: granting wishes for children with critical illnesses is an experience incomparable to anything else. It's unique. It's unusual. But it's crucial. The fact that, over the last 17 years, the Nashville community, from medical professionals to volunteers to donors, have banded together to make the most fantastic and outlandish childhood wishes come true is extraordinary.
Fifteen hundred individual lives have been touched by the efforts of Make-A-Wish Middle Tennessee, but the magnitude of the last 17 years does not stop there. The residual effect of those who have been touched by Make-A-Wish is mind-blowing. More than just a trip to Walt Disney World® Resort, a puppy or an unforgettable experience, Make-A-Wish gives hope. Hope to parents who have altered every aspect of their lives so they can work around their child’s doctors’ appointments; hope to classmates, teachers and friends who have all rallied behind a child encouraging them to keep fighting; and hope to a child who just needs the strength to push through one more day.
As I watched Fallon walk toward us down the airport terminal, I saw a sweet smile cross her lips and complete joy fill her eyes. The magnitude of the last 1,500 wishes sunk down deep inside my chest, and my heart welled up with joy as I thought of the next 1,500.