PHIL CAMPBELL- Thirteen is the awkward age between childhood and adolescence, where most kids just try to find out where they fit in. But for a young man named John, this constant uncertainty is also coupled with a daily battle for his health. He suffers from Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy. This disease has progressively robbed him of his mobility, forcing him to spend most of his time in a motorized wheelchair and to rely heavily on his mother for assistance with even simple tasks. “John hasn’t walked since last summer, “ said his mother Susan. But despite all the difficulties in his life, John is a fighter who is out to prove the doctor’s wrong. “They said he probably wouldn’t survive past age seven, but we still have him and he’s now 13,” said Susan.
So when someone anonymously submitted John’s name to professional fundraisers from Kids Wish Network, a charity that grants wishes for children with life threatening illnesses, Wish Coordinator TJ Whitlock quickly went to work making his wish of a shopping spree at the Riverchase Galleria a dream come true. Not only did she contact many of his favorite stores and convince them to donate gift certificates and goodies for John’s big day, but she also provided him with mall dollars so that he could go to any store he wanted and pick out merchandise of his choice. Because TJ couldn’t be there herself on the big day, she arranged for a volunteer, Char Brunner, from the Birmingham Harley owners, to meet John and Susan at the mall to make sure things went smoothly and that there were no problems. “ It was amazing watching John, he was non-stop,” Char said. “We were at the mall from 11 am until almost 6 pm!”
“It went great,” said Susan. “John had a wonderful time.” And knowing that John would probably work up quite an appetite from all the power shopping, TJ also arranged a meal and dessert for him at the mall’s food court. “He picked out clothes, shoes, movies; all kind of things,” said Susan. “But he was so happy when he got his Playstation 2. He couldn’t wait to go home and plug it in.” But in addition to all the goodies from the generous Riverchase Galleria merchants, TJ also secured gift certificates for John from Wal-Mart and Kmart. Because of the extra surprise, he was able to go home with a brand new television.
“Everything that’s happening to him can get him down,” said Susan. “We can tell when he’s having a good day or a bad day.” But thanks to Kids Wish Network, John definitely had a good day that he will be able to relive over and over again. “He’s just been playing with all the stuff since we got home,” Susan said. Now, if John starts to have a low day, he can look around at all his new merchandise and remember that there are people out there who do care about him, and want him to enjoy just being a kid.
Kids Wish Network would like to thank all of the gracious sponsors that made John’s wish a reality: McRae’s, Parisian, Hat Shack, Sam Goody, the Disney Store, Circuit City, Discovery Channel Store, Radio Shack, Spencer’s Gifts, Great American Cookie Co., Haagen Daaz Ice Cream, Sbarro’s Italian Eatery, Wal-Mart, Kmart, Pizza Hut, and All State Investigations.
Kids Wish Network is a nationally recognized non-profit organization whose mission is to grant wishes to children who have life-threatening illnesses. If you know a child between the ages of 3 and 18 who may be in need of their wish granting services, please call (813)891-9374 or toll free at (888)918-9004. You can also visit its web site at www.kidswishnetwork.org.