If a sick child can dream it, the Rainbow Connection can make it happen.
By Suzanne Chessler
A Troy sixth grader and the new director of the Rainbow Connection (TRC) have far-reaching experiences in common as they look forward to the organization’s 15th Annual Walk for Kids.
They both have been instrumental in raising money to grant wishes for young people fighting life-threatening medical conditions, and they both have had personal involvement with granted wishes.
Natalie, 11, in remission from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, has been named this year’s Wish Ambassador and will lead the walk Saturday, Aug. 5, at Jimmy John’s Field in Utica. The honor was inspired by her leadership in raising more than $6,500 in support of TRC.
Natalie, with the help of family and friends, used penny drives and Web connections to gain support for the organization that had cheered her in 2014 with a family trip to Disney World.
George Miller, recently named executive director of the statewide organization, had participated in the walks with his family. Motivation came from watching the enjoyment his late daughter Mandy experienced as she rode a horse leased for two years by TRC during her battle with rhabdomyosarcoma.
“Rainbow Connection is cool, and its gifts are awesome,” says Natalie, who hopes hundreds of people attend the walk she will lead with her team, Natalie Go Fight Win, and then enjoy hot dogs and refreshments followed by a Farm League evening baseball game.
“The gifts help kids who feel bad feel a lot better. The trip I made to Disney World was my first time there, and I especially liked the Animal Kingdom. I really like animals. At home, I have a dog and a hamster.”
Natalie is WILD about animals and loved visiting Animal Kingdom on her Wish Trip.
Rainbow Connection has made dreams come true for more than 3,200 children since 1985 and anticipates making more than 150 dreams come true in 2017.
TRC is solely funded by donations with more than 86 percent of all dollars raised going directly for services to youths and their families. Children served range in age from 2 to 18 years and can be recommended by a doctor, hospital or family member.
“We’re the first agency in Michigan to make dreams come true for kids with life-threatening illnesses and stay involved with the families,” Miller says. “Many families, because they have to focus on the health and well-being of individual children, run into financial difficulties.
“The Rainbow Connection, through generous donors, tries to assist these families. If we can’t do what they need, we make referrals to the appropriate agencies to assist.
“We also know that families and kids need respites during these periods, and we’ll get tickets, toys and games donated for them. We have tremendous partnerships.”
Natalie, with family and friends as partners, is working toward raising $10,000, enough to fulfill two wishes. NS
The 15th Annual Walk for Kids will be held Saturday, Aug. 5, at Jimmy John’s Field, 7171 Auburn Road, Utica. To register and learn more about the Rainbow Connection, visit therainbowconnection.org or call (248) 601-9474.