“Unique” Grayson Day has added meaning
By Randy Cox
The Grayson Day Festival held every April has always been special, but this year’s event has taken on added meaning.
On Saturday, April 26, the city will partner with the Make-A-Wish Georgia (MAW) chapter to grant wishes from four local children who are battling life-threatening diseases.
“We are asking our businesses, churches, civic groups, supporters, friends, family and neighbors to help us honor the requests of these children,” said Grayson Mayor Allison Wilkerson. “We have been introduced to four amazing children from the Grayson area who need help to make these wishes a reality.”
Wilkerson said a “huge crowd” is expected this year for the parade which begins at 10 a.m. Each child will serve as a parade Grand Marshal, and several community sponsors have created individually themed floats for each of them.
City Administrator Laura Paul-Cone said the event is a community effort. “We are unified in working toward the same goal… it makes you feel like you’re part of something bigger than yourself,” she said.
The City of Grayson is the first government entity in Georgia to do this kind of fund-raising activity with MAW, according to Fabiola Charles, vice-president of communications for the group. “The city is delivering a very unique type of opportunity,” she said. “Never before has an entry city done something like Grayson Day to celebrate the children of Make-A-Wish.”
MAW has worked with Cobb County government, sponsors of a 5K race in Marietta for the past 13 years, raising about $350,000 for this annual event.
Following are descriptions of the four children and their wishes. Each one attends Grayson cluster schools, and will have “wish parties” the week before Grayson Day celebrating fulfillment of their wishes:
Soraya, age 11, diagnosed with sickle cell anemia. Her wish is to have a pink laptop computer. “She’s a girly girl who likes cheerleading, fashions, and puppy dogs,” said Katie Mitchell, former city council member. “She’s a spunky girl.” Her float will be sponsored by Elevation Realty.
Blake, age 15, diagnosed with Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy. Blake’s wish is to have a “Strike Force” special wheelchair to play soccer at the same level of other teams. His team is scheduled to play in a tournament in Indianapolis, Ind. this June. His float is sponsored by Diamond Realty and Eastside Chamber of Commerce. “We really want to bring awareness to Make-A-Wish,” said City Council Member Laurie Anderson.
Houston, age 10, who attends fourth grade at Grayson Elementary School. He has been diagnosed with a congenital heart defect, and has had multiple open heart surgeries. He’s an active athlete who loves baseball, basketball and the Georgia Bulldogs. He would like to be an actor, said Wilkerson, and his wish is to visit Walt Disney World.
Ma’Kai, age 7, who has a respiratory condition. She loves to “sleep in and play inside” with her Kindle. She also wants to visit Disney World “to see the princesses and watch the parades and shows.” She will have her party at McDonald’s of Grayson complete with a strawberry shortcake furnished by Parkside Bakery. Her float is sponsored by Grayson Orthodontics.
Local companies, stores, restaurants, and schools are participating in the fund-raising effort by selling blue stars for one dollar each to raise money. So far, 1,444 stars have been signed out, and, in addition, Grayson Day drop boxes for cash and checks have been placed in various local establishments.
Salamandras Mexican Restaurant has pledged to donate its profits from Monday, April 14 to the event, while Bruster’s and Chelsea Gardens also has offered support.
Following the parade on Grayson Parkway, there will be free entertainment on the City Park stage beginning at 11:30 a.m. It will include cloggers, dancers, and other entertainers. There also will be inflatables and a showing of the award-winning movie, “Frozen,” on the big screen at dusk.
This year’s 2014 Grayson Day Festival marks its 35th year.
If you would like to make a donation, make checks payable to “Make-A-Wish Georgia” and mail to: The Grayson Day Festival, P.O. Box 208, Grayson, GA 30017. To make a donation online, click http://georgia.wish.kintera.org/graysonweekofwishes. If you have any questions, call (770) 963-8017 or e-mail admin@CityofGrayson.org.
“Grayson is a city of 2700 people… now let’s see what other cities can do,” said Wilkerson.
The average cost of a wish is $8,000. For every dollar donated to Make-A-Wish, 86 percent goes towards wish granting, according to MAW Georgia.
Georgia is one of the Top 13 Chapters (of 61 across the country) within the Make-A-Wish family, and has granted over 6,000 wishes to local children with life-threatening medical conditions.
To qualify for a wish, a child must be older than 2 1/2 and younger than 18 at the time of referral. A child can be referred to MAW by a parent or guardian, a medical professional, or by the child his/herself.
Typically children’s wishes fall into four categories: To Be (e.g., a zookeeper, a firefighter, a baker), To Meet (e.g., a favorite celebrity or athlete), To Have (e.g., a computer, a playhouse, a puppy), or To Go (e.g., to a theme park, Hawaii, a major sporting event).
Make-A-Wish Georgia was founded in 1995, and has granted over 6,000 wishes for local children. In fiscal year 2013, the organization granted 426 wishes, with nearly a third being a trip to Disney, or a Disney-related experience.
As the largest wish-granting organization in the world, MAW has granted the wishes of more than 280,000 children with life-threatening diseases nationwide.
People can visit the MAW website at www.georgia.wish.org to learn more about how they can help by donating funds, sponsoring events or volunteering with the organization.