Imagine if you were a little girl who received a surprise castle-themed playground. Wouldn’t that make all your wishes come true? It certainly made 4-year-old cancer survivor, Willamina Clayton’s, wish come true. The Make A Wish Foundation granted Willamina’s wish for a swing set with the help of the Northeast Vermillion FFA Chapter from IL.
The mission of the Make A Wish Foundation is to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy. When Willamina made her wish for a swing set, Make A Wish had nobody to build one for her. A member of the Make A Wish team had heard about the FFA Alumni and Campbell’s Soup Barn Restoration Project through coworker Eric Hasselbring, who helped with the two-year barn restoration project. The Make A Wish team was so pleased with the willingness of FFA Alumni and FFA members to work that she thought they would be the perfect group to help grant Willamina’s wish. To move the project forward, Eric connected Make A Wish with Jim McCray, Eastern Region Representative on the National FFA Alumni Council.
McCray was eager to help and spread the word to get students involved. The woodworking class of the Northeast Vermillion FFA Chapter spent two weeks in class building the circular slide and the two towers (minus the roofs) for what would soon be Willamina’s new castle-like playground. The day Willamina’s wish was set up and built on-site, her mother took her to a relative’s house so she wouldn’t see her wish until it was complete. That day, the wonderful group of FFA Alumni members and FFA students worked from 8-5 to put together Willamina’s new playground. Soon, they would all get to see Willamina’s wish come true.
Willamina fell asleep in the car ride back to her house, so when she woke up, she was really surprised. Jim McCray described the moment Willamina saw her wish in real life,
“She was sleeping in the van so they pulled it up so that when she opened her eyes it was the first thing she would see. All the work was worth that one moment.”
The Northeast Vermillion FFA Chapter and the IL FFA Alumni members involved truly showed how much of a difference community service can make. By simply offering their skills and some of their time, they changed the life of this little girl and provided hope and happiness for her family.
Kendall Walder, a sophomore FFA member of the Northeast Vermillion FFA Chapter at the time of the project said,
“I got to experience helping with the make a wish foundation by building a huge play set for a little girl with cancer. It was very cool to see a group of people come together to help a little girl. It also showed me how blessed I am to have such an easy life and not have to struggle through something like cancer. The moment when that little girl saw her play set was very special. It made me feel all my hard work had gone to something very awesome!”