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MADISON, Ala. – James Clemens High School and Make-A-Wish Alabama have given one Madison girl a memory she will never forget! A pep rally of sorts with one added surprise.

“A puppy!” Dozens of high school students yelled to announce the granted wish to 6-year old Maelin-Kate Carlson and her family.

“They’ve worked really hard and they raised money through our Kids for Wish Kids program, raised over $10,000 for Make-A-Wish Alabama,” Make-A-Wish Alabama Development Manager Lacy Fitzpatrick said.

“I love her,” Maelin-Kate said.

Maelin has a rare blood disorder, and she needed a bone marrow transplant. Her family applied to Make-A-Wish with the original plan of a Disney cruise because at the time, Maelin loved watching Disney movies during her recovery; then, the pandemic struck.

“It was heartbreaking, I would say in a sense. Actually, when it got canceled we were two days away from the reveal,” James Clemens Student Government Association President Jackson Quarles said.

The surprise was delayed for a year until things were safer, but with travel still discouraged, Maelin decided she wanted Penny the puppy instead; a name not chosen lightly.

“It seemed like on my really hard days I would randomly find heads up pennies in the most interesting spots. As soon as she got out of transplant the pennies transferred to her,” Mom Megan Carlson said.

Megan said Maelin started finding more heads-up pennies than she had ever seen. Maelin began keeping them in a small box, saying God was sending her the pennies, and He would soon also send her a puppy that she could name Penny.

These pennies were Megan’s sign that Maelin was ready to officially change her wish and get her new best friend. James Clemens was there to help Make-A-Wish Alabama make it happen.

Cheers and tears filled the gymnasium as students watched while Maelin was surprised with Penny the puppy.

Maelin and Penny took a joy ride in a Barbie jeep through the halls of the high school to show off their new friendship to all who helped make it happen.

“[It] brought tears to my eyes to see everyone out there cheering for Maelin, she was so excited when she got the puppy. Best thing I’ve experienced over my four years at James Clemons High School,” Quarles said.

“This is better than Disney world,” Maelin said.