GULFPORT – Up until the age of 18 months, Anna seemed like any other healthy and happy child, enjoying walking and exploring everything at her fingertips. Suddenly Anna stopped walking and it was determined that Anna had leukemia. Now at the age of 7, most of her life has been a series of chemotherapy treatments, causing her to lose 75 percent of her bone marrow in addition to having bouts of hair loss. Anna’s last round of chemotherapy treatments were cut short because Anna experienced heart and lung failure. Steroid treatments have affected her personality and caused her to gain weight. Anna went from being outgoing and happy to quiet and sadly depressed.
When Anna was physically at her weakest point, her mother would take her to the park and hold her up to the monkey bars because Anna loved to pretend that she was climbing and swinging like the other children. She knew Anna could use something special in her life, so after Anna’s mother read an article in the newspaper about Kids Wish Network, a charity that makes dreams come true for children with life threatening illnesses, she contacted Shelley, a wish coordinator about her daughter. Shelley spoke to Anna and found out that she dreamed of having her very own swing set with monkey bars, a swing and slide right in her own backyard. Shelley quickly swung into action bringing Anna the wish of her childhood dreams.
To keep Anna’s spirits high until her big wish, Kids Wish Network immediately sent Anna a gift box filled with all of her favorite things. With one phone call, Shelley recruited the help of Lorraine Santo of the Rotary Club of Edgewater Sunrisers who excitedly became involved in the team effort of making Anna’s dream a reality. The Rotary Club graciously sponsored the swing set knowing how this special gift would help Anna emotionally and strengthen her physically. “We have the opportunity to help people in need and the ability to raise money to help,” said President Elect Lorraine Santo. “If we can help somebody we do it without even giving it a second thought. Even if we don’t have the money readily available, somehow we raise it.”
Santo enlisted the help of BU1 Jerry Coons, a Navy Seabee, Dave Rogers of Barnard Construction and CE1 Don Hubbs, a retired Seabee to assemble the play area and when Lowe’s of Gulfport heard about Anna, the store jumped in and offered the play set at a discounted rate. Wal-Mart also quickly became a part of the wish and donated Power Puff Girls dolls to these heroines’ biggest fan. “It is so wonderful to see how the community has pulled together to bring so much joy into this sick little girl’s life,” said Shelley.
Kids Wish Network would like to graciously thank the Rotary Club of Edgewater Sunrisers, Wal-Mart, Lowe’s and an extra special thanks to Lorraine Santo, Jerry Coons, Dave Rogers and Don Hubbs for making Anna’s wish a dream come true.
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.