With a background in customer experience, it’s is in my nature to want to feel and experience things – to see nuances and learn the why. These are elements I believe everyone deserves to be a part of.
We all want to be touched, inspired and engaged. In my first week at Make-A-Wish Georgia, I was able to witness what it’s like to experience the work we do as an organization.
Back in December, we granted a local child’s wish live from the stage of the Macy’s at Lenox as the culmination event for our largest fundraising campaign, Macy’s National Believe. As CEO for all of five days, I had the honor of introducing that wish kid to an audience of 200+ spectators.
The wish child is named LaKayla – a beautiful and talented 17-year-old from Newnan that is fighting malignant neoplasm, a form of cancer. LaKayla was diagnosed with stage four cancer almost two years ago. For her, this wish was more than just a cool thing – it was a dream come true.
LaKayla’s wish was to have a music video created of her battle anthem called “Fantasy,” which speaks to her desire to “slay the dragon” (i.e. cancer).
She was told that she was going to be the celebrity performer for National Believe Day – the biggest event of the Macy’s campaign. She did not realize that her wish was happening that day.
Macy’s Believe Day
I arrived early on Friday for the big performance so that I could meet Lakayla and her family. When I walked in to the Macy’s styling room, I met LaKayla.
It was immediately apparent that she was having a tough day – her cancer was causing her severe pain and her face was flush. I was quickly reminded of the reality that she was battling a life-threatening medical condition.
But as we chatted about the upcoming performance, I also witnessed her being restored by the magic of the day – the magic of her wish. What happened next was truly remarkable.
An Amazing Performance
The girl that I had earlier spoken to that was too weak to eat before her performance reinvented herself right before my eyes. Her nerves dwindled as the beat went on. Lakayla became a star.
She captivated the audience, she brought us in and we were collectively feeling the magic right along with her. Heads nodded to the music, hands were up in the air. It was empowering. Her challenges became nonexistent.
For the 200+ people that witnessed Lakayla perform from the stage at Macy’s, we didn’t just see her being revitalized – we felt it! We felt the “power of a wish.”
And when LaKayla’s video was revealed, she and her family were restored back to the days before cancer. I know this because they said it. Lakayla cried, her family cried, the audience cried. We all witnessed an experience like no other.
The mission of Make-A-Wish sounds simple: we grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.
What I learned that day is that we do more than enrich, we restore. We restore families, we restore communities, we restore hope, and we restore dreams. There’s no better feeling than realizing this immense impact.
As the new CEO for Make-A-Wish Georgia, I commit to letting this and other experiences guide our team as we work to grant the heartfelt wish of every eligible child in Georgia. And I invite you to join us in creating even more magical wishes.