By JOHN OSBORNE
Sunday, December 7, 2008
FORT MYERS — For one day a year, Dallas Grice of Fort Myers gets to feel like a normal kid.
Born with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency syndrome, also known as boy-in-a-bubble syndrome, the 16-year-old wheelchair-bound teen was one of about 100 kids who came together at Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida on Sunday for The Wishing Well Foundation’s 14th annual holiday party.
Dallas’ mother, Maria Eash, said the yearly party is a lifeline for her family.
“Dallas has gone through just about everything there is to go through, and there’s nothing else for him to go through anymore,” said Eash, who provides home care for her son and daughter, Raquelle, 11, who was also born with the syndrome. “This is the only party that he looks forward to all year, and it’s the only one that he stays up the whole time for. Vicki came into our lives just when we needed her the most.”
Eash was referring to Vicki Torbush, who founded The Wishing Well Foundation in 1994 along with her mother, Mimi. The organization provides ongoing care for children with life-threatening illnesses in Lee and Collier counties, and also grants special wishes, including a trip last February for Madison Merrifield — the daughter of former Estero fire Chief Dennis Merrifield — to meet President Bush at the White House.
“For a lot of these kids, with the economy as bad as it is, this is the only Christmas party they’re going to get,” Torbush said, adding that her foundation is currently trying to line up Shaquille O’Neal and Andy Griffith to fulfill the wishes of local children with life-threatening illnesses.
Mimi Torbush said the holiday party was important for a number of reasons.
“For a little while, these kids who have been suffering for so long are able to have a day to forget about their illness for a short period of time,” she said. “Their smiles make all the hard work involved all year long way more than worth it.”
Along with Jack Sullivan, Michael Seabrook is co-chairman of the Charity Classic Golf Tournament, which took place in October and benefited The Wishing Well Foundation.
“We’ve had a connection with Vicki for several years now, and we all feel that it’s important to do something locally for our community, to give something back,” said Seabrook, a member of the Club Managers Association, Everglades Region. “To be here and see the difference it makes in all these kids’ lives, that makes all the difference in the world.”
Bringing a little creative flair to Sunday’s party was Lisa Briggs of North Port and her daughters Tyler, 5, and Savannah, 12. Arriving with a stack of hand-drawn “Get Well” cards for the children with life-threatening illnesses, the girls were anxious to show off their work.
“It was Tyler’s idea, and Savannah helped her out,” a beaming Briggs said. “I’m very, very proud of them.”
Savannah said the exercise was extremely rewarding.
“It makes me feel good knowing that this will make the kids happy,” she said, displaying dozens of examples of the family’s collective handiwork. “I hope it will help them get better.”
For more information on The Wishing Well Foundation, call (239) 213-0397 or visit http://www.wishingwellfoundation.com.
E-mail John Osborne at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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