HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - A few months ago, WHNT News 19 was honored to meet Princess Khushi, as she reigned over the Huntsville Christmas parade. We were so inspired by her journey, we wanted to learn more about the group that made her dream come true, Make-A-Wish Alabama.
While Make-A-Wish America is a national non-profit, it's money raised in Alabama that goes to Alabama's children.
And, for every critically ill child, like Khushi, who has a wish granted - dozens are still waiting.
North Alabama Development Manager Lacy Fitzpatrick says, "we have over 81 children on our wait list right now for North Alabama. We have 250 statewide."
The average wish cost is around $8,000. The average wait time - six months to two years. Fitzpatrick says, "we'd like to see it where it's under a year, where every wish is granted within a year."
Make-A-Wish accepts referrals from doctors, parents or guardians, family members with close knowledge of the child's condition, even the child herself.
Older children, such as Megan Roberts of Huntsville, are often the ones to submit the applications. Megan was 15 when she asked for a service dog. Now 22, she says the gift of her white golden retriever is like "having a wish granted every day."
In a few weeks, we'll hear more about Megan's wish, which fell into the "Have" category. Another example is a nearly 4-year-old girl in Madison, who is hoping for a splash pad. We plan to share her story with you, as well.
Other wish categories are: "To Meet" "To Be" and "To Go"
Examples of "To Meet" might be a horse lover meeting a real jockey or a young hockey fan taking the ice with his favorite team.
A "To Be" wish turns a child into anything from a princess in a parade, to a firefighter racing to the scene, even a superhero saving his city. If the child can imagine it, Make-A-Wish Alabama will work to make it happen, with not just an event - but an entire VIP experience.
Then, there are the wishes "To Go." For many children, that means a trip to Disney World or another fun, family destination. For one child in North Alabama, it means making a trip to meet some family.
Fitzpatrick says, "we're working really hard to get this child overseas to meet their grandparent. I don't believe they've ever had the chance to meet this grandparent in person, so that was this child's wish."
While such stories alone may be reason enough to help, there's also this. A study published last year in the journal Pediatric Research found "wish kids" are less likely to have unplanned hospital visits or trips to the emergency room than their peers who do not receive a wish.
The findings proved something doctors and volunteers had witnessed for years.
"It gives the child hope. When all they're surrounded by is hospitals and hospital beds and doctors appointments and medicines and to have this wish come true, it says 'wow, I really can be anything I want to be. I really can go anywhere I want to go.' That changes their entire outlook on life... and it can change their prognosis," Fitzpatrick says.
If you think that's a wish worth supporting, please click here. There are dozens of ways, big and small, that you can become a supporter of Make-A-Wish Alabama.
And, here's one more. On Thursday, June 20, 2019 from 4:00pm - 7:00pm, we invite you to join WHNT News 19 for a telethon. We're partnering with Make-A-Wish Alabama to raise money for critically ill children in our state. We hope you're able to tune in.