Here's a factoid that will brighten your day a little because, trust me, you're going to need all the sunshine in the world here in a minute. Houston is one of the highest-ranked cities in America when it comes to having the best charities. Only St. Louis has us beat.
Inside the list of great Houston charities, tops among them is the Make-a-Wish Foundation of the Texas Gulf Coast and Louisiana, which in 2014 scored 67.78 out of a possible 70 on Charity Ranker scale. Today we celebrate their good work by looking at the top 10 wishes of Houston children that they have granted. You really might want to pause and go get some tissues.
10. Carly Wright An active and energetic athlete and student at Mayde Creek High Schiool, Carly Wright was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer. When the Make-a-Wish Foundation contacted her, she asked to spend the day with the Houston Rockets. She got to do so in November of last year, meeting her favorite player, Chandler Parsons, and watching them take on the Celtics from Leslie Alexander's personal seat. It became a habit of the team afterwards to wear wrist bands that said, "#Kill cancer Carly.
Sadly, Wright did not survive her cancer, passing away in January. When informed of her death Parsons told the press, "She was a fighter. She is in a better place now and she gave us all inspiration and motivated us and I hope we did the same for her.That is just a sad horrible story and we will be praying for her family."
9. Emily Perkins Emily Perkins, a student at Lakeshore Elementary, was fighting cancer but dreamed of taking her family on a Hawaiian vacation. The Make-a-Wish Foundation stepped in, as did the Atascocita High School chapter of the National Honor Society. The AHS started a fundraiser to pay for the Perkins's trip, staging an event where they would release thousands of biodegradable balloons into the air with a $6,000 goal. Excess funds raised went to Emily's treatment.
8. Kira Harvey Disney World is a pretty popular Make-a-Wish choice, but even with the typical Houston does it in style. Kira Harvey had been fighting acute lymphoblastic leukemia for nearly three years, often suffering terrible side effects from her chemotherapy. Once she was well enough, the Make-a-Wish people sprang into action.
Taking a specially-sponsored Wish Flight, Kira and her family were met by a princess and a pirate at the gates. She and her sister were promptly dressed as princesses, and every day they spent in the park they were showered with surprise gifts, dined with the likes of Miss America, and bypassed all the lines with their Make-a-Wish badges.
7. Claire Lankford Claire Lankford was diagnosed with cancer at the age of three, and by the time she was five her body had five tumors growing in her lungs and lymph nodes. Make-a-Wish pulled out all the stops for her. She was dressed as a princess and carried from her home in the arms of a prince. From there she was paraded through the streets of Dickinson in a horse-drawn carriage, meeting other famous princesses like Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Belle. The streets were packed with people throwing her flowers and making her feel like royalty. Three months later, Lankford passed away from her disease.
6. Robin Spidell Is there any job that looks cooler than ice cream man when you're a kid? Nope, and Robbie Spidell knew that. Fighting T-cell lymphoma at the age of five, his wish was to drive an ice cream truck for a day, which was readily granted. He wasn't just thinking of himself, either. Noticing that kids in his neighborhood often didn't have money for ice cream, he distributed his wares free of charge thanks to a donation from Blue Bell.
Not only did he get his wish, but Spidell beat lymphoma's backside black and blue, went on to graduate from Pearland High School, and now sits on the board of the same Make-a-Wish chapter that was so kind to him as a child.
This story continues on the next page.
5. George Gring George Gring became a fan of the Carolina Panthers while he was watching game tapes his dad would bring him as he fought Burkitt's Lymphoma, an intestinal-based cancer, in the hospital. He grew to admire quarterback Cam Newton, and Make-a-Wish allowed Gring the chance to actually train with the player in a trip to Carolina. Gring would return to serve as the team's "Keep Pounding" drummer when they took on the Kansas City Chiefs
4. Andy Borden. A tumor on his spine left Andy Borden, 14, in a wheelchair. It's enough to bum anyone out, but Borden had a plan the Make-a-Wish Foundation was happy to help with. There was a two-year waiting list to get a helper dog, but thanks to a phone call to the MADE program Borden was short-listed to a few weeks. Now he's accompanied everywhere by a yellow lab named Endel, who has been trained from puppyhood to do everything from help with the laundry to take credit cards to cashiers.
3. Sterling Ellis Like Emily Perkins, Sterling Ellis wanted to go to Hawaii, but he was thinking a little more metal than most people. Instead of a relaxing stay, his wish was to go deep sea fishing for sea monsters. And fish for sea monsters he did, hauling in a nearly 12-foot-long marlin that weighed more than six times his own weight. The fight with the fish took over an hour, and afterwards Ellis kept the bill as a trophy and sold the rest of the fish to help pay for the trip. Then he went home for a bone marrow transplant because cancer is a lot less scary after you haul the lord of the sea up by its mouth.
2. Gimel Aguinaga The Make-a-Wish Foundation is good at providing the wishes money can buy, but somethings seem like they'd be outside the abilities of even the most dedicated charity. Gimel Aguinaga and his family had been legal residents from Nicaragua for years when Gimel was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma. Instead of a vacation, he asked for his entire family to become full-on American citizens. Sen. Phil Gramm took on the boy's cause, and helped expedite the immigration process with INS. His mother passed the citizenship test thanks to extra tutoring from Make-a-Wish, and the family was invited by the Astros to come meet Randy Johnson as an extra treat.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Support Our Journalism
1. Kristin Elliot The point of the Make-a-Wish Foundation is to do something nice for children facing long odds against deadly diseases. The point of Kristin Elliot is to make everyone else in the world look selfish in comparison. She had been fighting synovial cell sarcoma, ending up with a foot long scar in her leg where cancerous cells had been woven in among her arteries and veins and might possibly result in the loss of her leg.
Elliot decided that this was at best a minor inconvenience, and continued making regular mission trips to work with Zambian orphans who were often infected with advanced AIDS. But, you know, as long as the Make-a-Wish people were making such a big deal about her cancer she decided they could be put to work. Instead of meeting a famous person she asked them to help her build an orphanage in Zambia. She needed about $60,000. Make-a-Wish threw in $2,600, and Elliot responded by immediately raising another $8,000 herself because Kristin Elliot makes even the Make-a-Wish people look like they don't care enough. She's over $300,000 now, got named ABC's Person of the Week, and spent her extra dough building a special AIDS wing in a hospital near her orphanage.
She's 23 now, a graduate from Baylor and raising a daughter named Grace. Unfortunately, she's still fighting her cancer as she goes through bouts of remission, but based on its past performance I'm not putting money on cancer's chances. Odds are not only will Elliot beat the disease, she'll probably host a fundraiser for its grief counseling afterwards and teach it to sing hymns or something.