Western Wishes

Mikala Reiswig, Glass Half FullIn my column this week, I would like to draw your attention to a wonderful organization in our area that you may not be familiar with. A young girl that I grew up with is the West Texas director of Western Wishes, a non-profit organization that makes dreams come true for children and young adults who face adversity in their lives and love the western way of life. The organization has been going since 1994, and they have made hundreds of wishes a reality.Jessi Schmidt of Morse has battled cystic fibrosis since she was a toddler. She has beat all the odds, and is a thriving young adult now, although there are still struggles with her disease. She has competed in rodeos all her life despite the setbacks cystic fibrosis throws at her. In 2000, because of Western Wishes, she got to spend a day with rodeo legend and mentor Charmayne James. In 2001, Jessi got to meet country legend George Strait, where he surprised her with a cake and gifts for her 13th birthday. (She also graciously got my mom and I autographed pictures.) In April 2012, Jessi was asked to be the West Texas Director, and she graciously accepted. She is trying to get the word out in this area and find donors, sponsors, support, and volunteers to help these kids in need of a little inspiration.What makes Western Wishes different is highlighted on their website, “contrary to other organizations who accept only terminally ill children, Western Wishes has a been able to serve victims of severe spinal cord and head injuries as well as survivors of cancer, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, and heart afflictions. Many of them would have been turned away from traditional ‘wish’ organizations because they only select terminal children under the age of 18. Western Wishes is different.”Also highlighted on their website are the inspirational stories of the wish kids that have had their dreams come true. There are so many stories that will tug at your heart strings. One of my favorites is the story of the sweet little Tallen from Arizona. In 2010, when he was five years old, a horse that he was leading spooked and dragged him over 20 yards. He was severely injured and underwent many invasive surgeries at Phoenix Children’s hospital. He came out of a coma and sedation, and he went through a very intensive rehab. After 150 days in the hospital, he was able to go home. Although Tallen is alive, he has lost the ability to walk or talk. He is always happy and determined and communicates through sign language. Tallen has always loved rodeos, and was becoming quite a little roper before his accident. Tallen was able to spend the day at the Tucson Rodeo with the likes of rodeo clowns Kelly Jennings, Wacey Munsel, and Andy; as well as World Champion Bareback Rider Will Lowe (who is from Canyon, TX) because of Western Wishes.Western Wishes encourages their wish kids to focus on their goals and aspirations instead of their affliction, which gives them a postive outlook on life. Amazingly, most of these kids already have this positive outlook on life, although they are facing a tough road. Many of them still compete in rodeos and chase their dreams despite their physical challenges. They are described as having a “fierce competitive spirit.” I think that is something all of us can learn from!