ST. GEORGE — A 3-year-old St. George girl’s wish was granted earlier this month when Desert Hills High School and Make-A-Wish Utah partnered to surprise her and her family.
Through Make-A-Wish Utah’s Kids For Wish Kids campaign, which allows K-12 schools and universities across Utah to fundraise and interact with wish kids, Desert Hills High raised $15,000 to grant a local wish. Make-A-Wish Utah president and CEO Jared Perry told St. George News that the campaign is a way to provide a meaningful experience to both wish kids and students by including the students in granting wishes.
“It’s inspiring to see students making efforts that leave a huge impact,” Perry said. “Desert Hills had to change their strategy this year because of COVID. When we talk about leadership and a student body that is committed to find a way to make things happen, these are kids that have been very strategic in their planning.”
Perry added that the campaign is all about giving students a sense of purpose when they see why they’re fundraising, he said. It’s also a great way to give kids like Jemma a chance to be happy after struggling with a severe medical condition, even during the pandemic.
“As life becomes more normal here in Utah, that doesn’t mean that their lives are back to normal,” Perry said. “This gives them an outlet to go out and be kids.”
Jemma, who was diagnosed with leukemia, wished for a trip to Disneyland, but due to complications surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, she was unable to go. Instead she asked for a camping trailer so she and her family could travel safely.
According to a press release from Desert Hills High School, students partnered with local businesses, held a silent auction, hosted a pickleball tournament and volunteered to do odd jobs around town in order to collect donations for Jemma’s wish. In addition to the camping trailer, the students also donated sleeping bags for the whole family, a corn hole set, a giant kickball, camping lanterns, flashlights, a lighter, marshmallows, roasting sticks, a portable grill and a cooler, as well as the remaining $8,217.
Ava Graff with Desert Hills High student council told St. George News that Jemma’s story was uniquely important to them because Jemma is the granddaughter of the school’s choir director, Joe Woolf.
“We were enthusiastic about being able to partner with Make-A-Wish, but the fact that it happened to be someone so close to home made it that much more memorable for the entire school,” Graff said.
She added that the council was also inspired by the Japanese story of Sadako, a young girl who was diagnosed with leukemia after the bombings of Hiroshima and believed that if she made 1,000 paper cranes, the gods would grant her a wish.
With the help of the Japanese teacher at Desert Hills, the students made 1,000 paper cranes and gave them to Jemma so her wish would come true.
When Jemma arrived to see her wish, she was very excited to see the pile of goodies awaiting her, Graff said.
“Jemma was very excited to pull the ribbon off of her big box of cranes and collected a few to carry,” she said. “It was a very special moment for all who came, and the entire family was very gracious.”
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