There is a day care center in a small Mississippi Gulf Coast town where children celebrate their very special patron – Elise, a 12-year-old girl whose fondest wish was granted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation® . Elise could have asked for a vacation, a computer, a celebrity visit or a horse. Instead, she wished to help children whose lives were turned upside down in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Elise was a happy, healthy girl who enjoyed school, sports and horseback riding until 2006, when she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
While Elise was being treated, Hurricane Katrina was in the news. She learned that the storm damaged the Total Child Learning Center in Ocean Springs, Miss., affecting the lives of nearly 20 children ages 2-11. Elise thought to herself, “If the doctors can fix what’s wrong with me, maybe I can fix what’s wrong with this day care center.” A wish was born, and Make-A-Wish® volunteers immediately went to work.
When Elise and her family arrived in Mississippi, they were greeted by a crowd of well-wishers holding signs and balloons. But Elise was shocked and saddened by the devastation. So much of the town had not yet been rebuilt. She knew then she’d come to the right place to make her wish as meaningful as possible.
More than 100 volunteers contributed to work parties that stretched from Friday through Sunday. Elise laid linoleum and painted cubbies. Aided by the manager of the local Lowe’s, day care workers and volunteers from nearby Keesler Air Force Base, her reconstruction project took shape. Some of the day care’s children and their parents came to lend a hand. After the finishing touches were put on the work, Elise and her family were treated to some well-earned rest.
On Monday, the final day of Elise’s wish experience, she arrived at the center for the official ribbon-cutting ceremony. The kids were happy and excited – running around on their new floor, drawing on the cool chalkboard tables and trying on funny costumes.
Elise has vivid memories of the children – and they have not forgotten her kindness. They stay in touch, and the kids still talk about the girl with the brown curly hair and big smile who brought a huge measure of hope, strength and joy to their lives.
I am including a link to the Make-A-Wish foundation below: