MEMPHIS –Joyce speaks three languages, is studying a fourth, just graduated from high school and has plans to attend college in the fall. What makes this story special is that Joyce did all this despite undergoing a life threatening bone marrow transplant. She suffers from a rare blood cell disorder called myelodysplastic syndrome, which turned into a form of leukemia requiring the transplant. It will be at least a year before her immune system will recuperate and years before doctors can say the procedure was a success. Until then, Joyce will have to fly back and forth between the U.S. and Lebanon for check-ups. That is the other twist in this young girl’s story; she’s here on a medical visa that’s ready to expire.
Joyce isn’t just battling her health; she’s fighting stereotypes as well. The patriotic fervor created by terrorist acts in this nation has also created a distrust of anyone from her part of the world. But this young girl has grown to love everything about the United States. She attended school in Memphis and has both family and friends in the U.S.; she’s not ready to go home to Lebanon, but she knows she must at the end of the summer.
“She’s quite an admirable young lady,” said Jeanette Lavecchia, Joyce’s social worker. Knowing all that she has been through in her young life, Jeanette wanted to do something special for Joyce before she left, so she submitted her name to Kids Wish Network, a charity that grants wishes for children with life threatening illnesses. Soon Wish Coordinator Luisa Frederiksen was bargaining all over town to get Joyce her only wish: a world-class shopping spree. It wasn’t easy, but Luisa knew how to make the sale.
Luisa hit it big when she contacted Dillard’s department store at the Wolfchase Galleria. Looking beyond the issues created by her Arab background, Ken Eaton of Dillard’s corporate office decided compassion for Joyce’s condition was more important and donated $1000.00 gift certificate for her spree. “We’ve never done anything like this before,” said store manager Brant Musgrave. “I hope it leads to more projects like this.” After that, Luisa was off and running, making deals all over the mall with other stores to participate in the girl’s shop-a-thon. To ensure a grand entrance as well as exit, Luisa even arranged for a fabulous limousine service for the teen shopper.
“I know she’s excited about the shopping spree,” said Jeanette, her social worker. “She’s come a long, long way. Everything has been hard on her. She’s adjusting to everything, her health, eating, and especially going back home.” Soon, no matter where Joyce is, she will always have the memory of some special people from all over uniting for one reason: to make her dream come true.
Kids Wish Network would like to thank Dillard’s, Bahama Breeze, JC Penney’s Salon, Gadzook’s, American Eagle Outfitter, Wilson’s Leather, Midsouth Limo and volunteer Margaret Yoste for graciously sponsoring Joyce’s big day.
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 of a child between the ages of 3 and 18 who may be in need of Kids Wish Network’s wish granting services, please call (813) 891-9374 or toll free at (888) 918-9004. You can also visit Kids Wish Network’s web site at www.kidswishnetwork.org.
******Note to media:
As a member of the media, you are invited to join Joyce on her big day, Thursday, June 27, 2002, at the Wolfchase Galleria. Be a part of the excitement and see firsthand the magic a wish can bring to a sick child. For more information about Joyce’s shopping spree, please call Wish Coordinator Luisa Frederiksen of Kids Wish Network at (813) 891-9374.