When Shawnee was diagnosed with a life-threatening neurological disorder at just two-years-old, her older sister Gemma was by her side every step of the way. She held Shawnee’s hand through countless IV starts and helped her through physical and occupational therapy. Gemma even played therapist at home to give Shawnee extra practice learning how to walk and talk again.
Gemma continues to look out for her sister both at home and on grand adventures together, including Shawnee's wish trip to Walt Disney World® Resort.
"The best thing for a parent is to see your children experience buckets of joy, excitement, laughter and the magic of being surrounded by such an amazing experience," said Jenel, Shawnee and Gemma's mom. "The girls talk about their Florida trip all the time and I know they will both hold that experience dearly in their hearts forever."
Inspired by the happiness and joy this trip brought her sister, Gemma decided to do something to support other wish kids. So, she hosted a sale to benefit Make-A-Wish® Alaska and Washington. By picking flowers from her grandfather's yard and selling her own watercolor paintings, created especially for the sale, Gemma was able to raise $86 for the local chapter.
"I wanted to raise money to give to Make-A-Wish because of the amazing gift that they gave to my sister and my family," Gemma wrote in a letter to Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington. "I hope this money can help another kid get their wish."
Gemma’s fundraising isn't going to stop here. Her plan for next summer's sale is already in the works.
"Her sister's illness has given both girls some amazing personality traits. Proof that wonderful things can come from horrible events," said Jenel about her daughters.
In fact, the impact of the Make-A-Wish experience and Gemma's desire to give back is not entirely unique. Make-A-Wish of America recently commissioned an impact study conducted by an independent third party in which they discovered that the wish experience has been shown to increase philanthropic involvement. According to this study, 92 percent of volunteers, 94 percent of wish parents and 86 percent of former wish kids who are now adults express a deeper commitment to philanthropy and volunteering.
Gemma's act of kindness shows the far-reaching impact a wish-come-true can have on a family and how the support of family, community and organizations like Make-A-Wish can bring people together.
Special thanks: Wish-granting volunteers Grant and Susan Webber, American Airlines, Avis, Walt Disney World® Resort, Give Kids the World and Rainforest Café Southcenter