Families of sick children share stories of granted wishes

The McDonald family
The McDonald family

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - To date, Make-A-Wish has granted more than 280,000 wishes around the world, including 1,200 in Kentucky and Indiana. Those dreams take flight on more than 27 million airline miles, but those miles must be paid for or donated before that wish can come true.

As a Make-A-Wish mom, Shelley Spragen said she thinks about all the wishes not granted.

"There are so many kids that are on the wait list," Spragen said. "There are so many kids that have wishes."

The Spragen family fought the stress and pressure of a diagnosis of ovarian cancer for Shelley's then-13-year-old daughter. It was Kaileigh Byrne's wish and the trip provided by Make-A-Wish that gave the family a little faith and much needed relaxation.

Make-A-Wish mom Jill Childers took a deep breath before explaining, "To envision us going for a week somewhere with no appointment to keep and basically the only doctor's orders was to have fun, it didn't seem real, like it could really happen!"

Jill and Dustin Childers had just bought a new home. As expectant parents, they decorated a room for their daughter who was weeks away from making her appearance in the world. When Addison Childers was born, she did not see her room for months. Complications kept Addison and her family at Kosair Children's Hospital and changed their lives forever.

Addison's wish and the other 140 wishes granted each year here in Kentuckiana happen thanks to Make-A-Wish and all of the people who make donations of time, money and airline miles. It takes miles and money to help these kids and their families travel to and from the incredible experience they wish for. The Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana Make-A-Wish chapter is the largest in the country. The funds it raises stay here to help grant local children's wishes.

As she smiled at Addison, Jill Childers explained, "She picked Disney World to see Mickey Mouse. That's actually what she told them. It's probably the best experience I would say that we had as a family."

[RELATED STORY: Meet Make-A-Wish Kid Addie]

Make-A-Wish mom Amanda McDonald reminded her daughter Addie of their trip as she asked her, "What did you get to do with Elmo?" Addie in her little voice shouted as loud as she could, "Eat lunch with Elmo!"

Amanda McDonald stressed, "The wish alone right there was a whole week that we got to be a family. Nothing was about surgeries and doctors appointments and stuff. That alone was a big break for us."

Wiping tears from his eyes, Chad McDonald sighed, "We did. We all took a break."

Granting wishes for these children fills them with hope and joy. It's almost impossible to express what it does for the family as a whole.

Karen Staten said, "It's not just a trip. It's a dream for him, for all of us."

A dream, a break and a blessing that will never happen without the miles, the money and the support of a community that can help make a wish come true.

Now a high school junior, Make-A-Wish Kid Kaileigh Byrnes offered her thoughts:"It helped me.  It helped us all and I know that. I would want any other kid to be able to do this, too."

For every child with life-threatening medical conditions whose wish is granted, another child facing life threatening medical conditions is waiting for their wish to come true. Each year, Make-A-Wish provides approximately 500 airline tickets. That's equivalent to 27 million airline miles and more smiles than you can count.

Make-A-Wish dad Dustin Childers tried his best to sum up his daughter Addison's trip saying, "It was medicine not only for her but for the whole family. It was an amazing, amazing experience that can't be put into words."

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