ST. FRANCIS — For more than 15 years, Debra Harper has helped make dreams come true for Kansas kids whose lives have been turned upside-down by critical illnesses. Her work as a wish-granter for Make-A-Wish Kansas gives her a front-row seat to the difference hope can bring to a child, and family, under the burden of a life-threatening medical condition.
“These kids are so inspiring to me,” Harper said. “Oftentimes their disease is all they have ever known. They are happy even though they are undergoing treatment and being in and out of hospitals.”
Harper has helped make wishes come true for eight Kansas kids through volunteering at Make-A-Wish Kansas. Three of them, she says, were younger than 8.
“It is very therapeutic for the child and the family,” Harper said. “It takes their mind off the treatments and doctor visits for a few days and gives them a lifetime of memories.”
Harper got her start granting wishes by responding to a newspaper ad.
“The first wish child I had was an emergency wish,” she said of Brianna, a 6-year-old girl with a fast-growing brain tumor. “She absolutely lit up the room when we walked in. She had an amazing trip to Disney World and died four days after she returned. She is my inspiration.”
Recently, Harper had the privilege of helping to grant a wish to someone in Cheyenne County. Nineteen-year-old Travis Rogers recently received an iMac to help him with his education.
“In the past, I have traveled 150 miles round trip, so it was very special to grant a wish so close to home,” Harper said. “I have known Travis and his family my whole life. For all he’s been through, he is a special teenage boy, very appreciative and humble. He was always very pleasant and never complained.”
Rogers wants others to know the power Make-A-Wish Kansas can have in the life of a child and their family.
“Make-A-Wish Kansas is so generous and was willing to grant my wish of seeing Hawaii, but as I thought about it further, I realized that Wish should be granted to a child with a lifelong or life-threatening illness,” Rogers said. “I am so grateful for my gift and the work they do for Kansas kids facing a big challenge in their life.”
Harper would love to spread the joy that being involved in Make-A-Wish Kansas has brought to her and invite others to experience the satisfaction of bringing hope, strength and joy to Kansas kids.
“If you love to give back to people or if you love being around children, this is very fulfilling,” she said. “We grant their wishes, but they grant us so much happiness in return. When I think I am having a bad day, I look at the photos I keep of the wish children as inspiration.”
For more information about how you can become a wish-granter, contact LeAnne Miller at (316) 838-9474 or at email@example.com or visit www.kansas.wish.org.