First Posted: 1/15/2009
Tim Wilkins-Managing editor
ST. PAULS - Sometimes, wishes do come true.
Devin Haats, 10, saw a lifelong dream fulfilled Saturday when the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Eastern North Carolina delivered a redwood swing set that included a circular slide and rock-climbing wall to his Saddletree Community home.
Devin, who suffers from Down Syndrome and a congenital heart defect, could barely contain himself when the trucks from Fayetteville Backyards of Hope Mills rolled up into his yard, their flatbeds packed with playground equipment.
“Devin doesn't talk much, but he let out a 'wow' when he saw it,” said Devin's mother, Jackie Haats. “This is something he's always wanted. When we go to McDonald's, we have to dig him out of the Jungle Gym. We could have never afforded something like this. I just can't thank Make-A-Wish enough.”
The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Eastern North Carolina is an all-volunteer organization that grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions. The organization covers a 49-county region of North Carolina, and since 1980 it has granted the wishes of more than 1,200 children.
“This is a wonderful, deserving family,” said Pam Ainsworth, the volunteer who arranged for the delivery of the swing set to Devin. “I love bringing joy to a child's life.”
Jackie and her husband, Donnie Haats, tracked down the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Eastern North Carolina over the Internet and wrote a letter to the organization about their son's desire to have a swingset. After Devin's case was approved, Ainsworth contacted Hunter Mann, the owner of Fayetteville Backyards, about fulfilling Devin's wish.
Though Make-A-Wish paid for the swing set, Mann donated a circular slide and upgraded the set to the costlier redwood for free.
“I've worked with Special Olympics before, but this is my first experience with Make-A-Wish,” Mann said. “I'm just glad I can do something to help make a difference for this child.”
Although every wish experience is unique, there is a standard process for granting a wish. Children under 18 may be referred from one of several potential referral resources, including a wish request directly from the child or a child’s parents or legal guardians or a medical professional. The child’s physician then determines whether or not the child is medically eligible for a wish and able to participate. From there, a team of wish-granting volunteers visit the family and find out the child’s one true wish.
In addition to the swing set donated by Make-A-Wish, Devin also got a bicycle from the group of local volunteers represented by Ainsworth.
“This is all just wonderful,” said Donnie Haats. “Devin's most recent trip to the doctor wasn't very good. The doctors are not happy with his progress and are talking about installing an artificial valve in his heart … something that's usually reserved for much older people.
“But he never gets down about his condition. He's never met a stranger and he loves other children. And all this has really made his day … and ours.”
Devin, who attends L. Gilbert Carroll Middle School in Lumberton, could barely wait as the workers put together his swing set. Hanging from the half-finished redwood structure, he repeated over and over the one word he used to best describe the experience: “Wow!”