Posted on April 15 2019
“Biggest smiles you have in 3…2…1…”
Photographer and Wish Alumni, Creagh directs 4 tiny but mighty Make-A-Wish models on the set of the Wish Kid Photoshoot. I’ve made myself as small as possible in the back of the studio, ensuring I stay out of the way of the magical happenings. Giant blue and white balloons float above me. Just as carefree and joyful and the smiling faces on the other side of the production lights.
“Let me get another one….3…2…1… She’s a professional!”
Little girls leave trails of glitter in their wake, dawning Mickey Mouse ears and matching blue Make-A-Wish T-shirts. Little Nathaniel holds his “A” upside down, making an adorable picture that’s much more melt-worthy.
Robbie, Director of Marketing for Make-A-Wish, jokes that he doesn’t want anyone to do his hair and make-up. I encourage him not to worry, we have plenty of wigs.
The Wish Kid Photoshoot at Wigs.com
Make-A-Wish holds annual photoshoots for the “Wish Kids”, and this time, Wigs.com has the privilege to have them in our production studio!
Today started out like any other day. I raced down Eastbound Highway 635, hoping my caffeine intake was enough to kick me into full gear (to match my Nissan’s odometer) and pulled into the Wigs.com parking garage at precisely 7:52. Two minutes later than preferred, but with at least 5 minutes to ride the elevator to floor 9, I’m in the clear to be in my office chair, checking emails by 8 a.m.
Fast forward a couple of hours and I begin to notice children walking by - boys wearing sports uniforms and girls with joyful smiles. It’s not unusual to see new faces in the office, so at first, I don’t pay much mind. That is, until I see the signs, props and humongous balloons making an appearance. Finally giving way to the curiosity, I ask a passerby (John, the lead Wigs.com programmer) what’s happening!?
“Make-A-Wish is having their photoshoot here today.”
I’m the last to know everything! And that’s okay, it just gives my detective skills a time to shine. But seriously, how cool is this?!
Now, here’s the part I think you’ll really like – I got to talk to some of the Wish Kids! And let me tell you, they are so awesome. Here’s how it went:
“What was your wish?”
“My wish was to go to Hawaii.”
“How long did you stay?”
“It was a 7-day, 6-night trip. Make-A-Wish funded the excursion…zip-lining and swimming with dolphins…zip-lining was my favorite.”
“How old were you when you got your wish?”
“I was 15.”
“You were 15 then? How old are you now?” (Christian looks to be about 15)
“I’m 18 now” (oh my gosh)
“So, when you were told that you got a wish, what did that do for you?”
“Well, I was actually told that I’d gotten a wish about 45 minutes after I was told that my life… might end. So, there was relief, excitement, though not much excited me at that moment, it gave me something to look forward to.”
Christian then begins to open up about his illness…
“It started with my hands shaking. I ended up going to see a neurologist and he wanted me to have an MRI to make sure that there was nothing happening with the nerves in my brain. That’s when they found the tumor. The shaking actually didn’t have anything to do with the tumor, but it’s how we found it.”
Christian had a 12-hour surgery performed to allow fluid to drain into the spine from the brain. One week after the surgery, he found out that he had a rare malignant tumor. So rare that only 5 people had ever been diagnosed with it before. So, they weren’t sure how to treat it. In talking about this, Christian realizes that today is actually the 3-year anniversary of the date that his tumor was removed. Astounding.
“How long after starting your chemotherapy, did you start to see hair loss?”
“I started seeing it about 2 weeks after starting treatment. I had lost all of it after about a month.”
“How did you feel about losing your hair? I know that many older men look for hairpieces and things like that, but how about a younger guy?”
“Well, I liked to wear beanies a lot. But after a while I didn’t really care that much.”
“Do you think this might have been a little different if you were a girl?”
“Yeah, I think it’s different as a guy.” (Laughing)
“So, let’s be creative and think hypothetically. If you were a girl and had gone through this, do you think you may have wanted to wear a wig?”
(Nodding) “Yeah, yeah I do.”
Christian now attends college for Biblical Studies and aspires to be a Pastor. His experience with Make-A-Wish and the opportunities he’s had to speak about something he’s so passionate about helped him to realize that he wants to do the same with his faith.
Ellie and Mom Kellie
Ellie was diagnosed with Leukemia in August of 2015 when she was about to start 6th grade. Ellie is now 14.
Ellie went through one year of hair loss due to Chemotherapy treatments.
“If you brushed it, it would knot up and tangle.” Kellie remembers hair on the pillowcase and Ellie being bothered by always having hair all over her.
“…she was so strong. She never showed her struggles but anyone going through that has to at some point. There was one time I just remember her coming into my room and sobbing…. after everything that she was going through, to have to go through that as well… she wanted hair. She was sick of looking like that”
“Did you ever try wigs or alternative hair?”
Kellie and Ellie relate their experiences with wigs that were itchy and scratchy, and just uncomfortable. Unfortunately, they never got to get a high-quality wig.
“Do you think it may have helped to get a nicer, higher quality wig?
Ellie and Kellie nod in agreement.
“So, what was your wish?”
“My wish was to go to the Bahamas and swim with the dolphins.”
My recommendation for Ellie to watch Holiday in The Sun (A Mary-Kate and Ashley classic – set in the Bahamas) reveals our age difference. This is determined by her blank stare at the mention of the iconic duo, and I congratulate her on her gloriously youthful age.
“How long did you get to stay?”
“5 days (5 days and 4 nights)”
“And what were your emotions when you found out you had a wish?”
“We actually had a BIG wish reveal…my whole middle school was doing an under the sea themed dance…and then my principal called me up in front of everyone and asked me if I had a wish and I told her. And then she said that my wish had been granted!”
You can see Ellie light up when talking about her wish reveal. It’s evident that this memory is something she will never forget.
To mom, Kellie,
“Were you there during the wish reveal?”
“Yes, I was. My whole side of the family and her dads’ whole side of the family”
“Did she know you were there [before the reveal]?”
“No, she had no idea.”
What an incredible story and picture of pure joy at the hands of an amazing organization that grants wishes when they are needed the most.
“What do you want to be when you grow up, Ellie?”
“I haven’t really thought a whole lot about it, but I have thought about being a Children’s Therapist.”
“Awesome, so do you think that going through what you went through at a young age has influenced that at all?”
“Yes, definitely. Growing up I always that I would have like a normal childhood…I had to grow up really fast.”
Ellie feels that her experiences in childhood will give her insight that would translate into helping children who may have also had experiences in their childhood that are difficult to work through.
I noticed that Christian and Ellie are both very smart and vibrant. They also emulate the maturity of someone far beyond their years. These kids have conquered feats that most of us can only imagine. It was truly an honor to hear their stories!
What a joy it was to meet these heroes and have the Make-A-Wish Foundation in the Wigs.com production studio today. Such a pleasant surprise!