FOREVER Supports Make-A-Wish®
On Friday, August 3, FOREVER donated $1,000 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Greater Pennsylvania and West Virginia. It's very important to us as an organization to give back, especially to foundations that have personally benefited those in our community. Two FOREVER Ambassadors, Melissa Baldwin and Teresa Townsend, have emotional and touching stories of how Make-A-Wish provided a ray of light during an otherwise dark time in their family's lives.
My husband and I have been married for 28 years and have 5 children...2 homegrown and 3 adopted. When I first heard about Benjamin, he was 5 years old and had lived almost his entire life in an orphanage in China with multiple severe heart defects, recurring bouts of pneumonia, and tuberculosis. The government of China had declared him “inoperable,” which was a definitive death sentence.
We were hoping to adopt Benjamin, bring him home, and see what the doctors here could do - but there were no guarantees. While we were working hard to bring him home, he got much sicker. Someone alerted a humanitarian organization called Save A Child’s Heart based in Holon, Israel, and they agreed to see him. An anonymous donor paid his expenses, the Associate Director at his orphanage surreptitiously acquired a Visa for him, and they raced Benjamin to Israel.
When he arrived, he was literally moments from death... he had no pulmonary veins, just tiny collateral veins his body had created taking small amounts of blood to his lungs. They had ALL closed off except one which only had a 1mm opening left. The doctors in Israel performed two open heart surgeries and saved his life. It was literally a miracle.
We were finally able to bring him home. He has had one surgery for his heart here and we expect he will have many more, BUT he is expected to have a normal life span with those surgeries! His cardiologist nominated him for Make-A-Wish soon after he arrived here in the US. Because his condition is life-threatening (even now), he was granted a wish. His English was very limited, so we had a hard time figuring out a wish. However, his Make-A-Wish grantors took the time to get to know him and figure out what made him excited and happy. He was enthralled with transportation, all modes of it, as well as music and dancing, so naturally we took a trip with him to New York City! He had the time of his life! It was a whirlwind experience and exhausting but there is no way to put into words the fullness of the memories we were able to create as a new family.
Up until December 18, 1992, my son Shay was a happy, healthy, four-year-old little boy. My sunshine on cloudy days! But that morning of December 18, he woke up and came to me and said he couldn’t see. Within hours, he was being flown to the University of VA where he was diagnosed with the rare and incurable disease, Adrenoleukodystrophy.
Our world was turned upside down. During that year, day by day, Shay lost not only his sight but all mobility. We tried to keep living life to the fullest, second by second. While in the hospital, a doctor told us that we should go to Disney World. We had just been told that our son had a rare, incurable disease - Disney World was the last thing on our minds. The doctor insisted. Make-A-Wish was contacted and in February, we were in Florida.
While there, we stayed at Give Kids the World Village. I cannot say enough about Give Kids the World Village and Make-A-Wish! Everything - and I mean everything - was taken care of. It was not just that the expenses were covered, it was also that they cared and put love into every detail. They arranged for us to go to Universal Studios for Shay to go on stage with his favorite mouse, Fievel. He also met Princess Snow White, who volunteered at Give Kids the World Village, and the two became best friends.
Make-A-Wish gave us a few days to escape and make a few last good memories. We would never have taken this trip on our own. I suppose the doctor felt it was the only thing he could give us.
Shay died on December 7, 1993, almost a year after his diagnosis. I just finished his photo book this month. I wanted my daughter, who was 3 years old at the time, and my other son, who we adopted later, to know Shay’s story. I am a personal historian and help people write their stories and organize their photos all the time. My experience of writing Shay's story and going through old photos helped me to remember the good memories of him before his illness. That's something that I have been searching for for twenty-five years.
Thank you, Melissa, Teresa, and Make-A-Wish.
It is truly an honor to work with these strong women who have the courage to share such personal and emotional stories. Watching FOREVER Founder & CEO Glen Meakem and Director of Sales Tara Claborn hand the check to Make-A-Wish, right alongside Melissa and Teresa, was truly touching. Thank you Melissa, Teresa, Shannon (Development Coordinator for Make-A-Wish of Greater Pennsylvania and West Virginia), Make-A-Wish, our passionate community of Ambassadors, our loyal customers, and everyone else who made this possible.