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Good News Fridays: Magic Moments Strives To Brighten The Lives Of Seriously Ill Children

Welcome to the Good News Fridays segment! Each week here on Geek Alabama, Good News Fridays will feature something good, wholesome, positive, and overall something great. After a long and stressful week, we all need something good to read or watch on Fridays! Enjoy a heartwarming post below!

Many people grow up with dreams of becoming a movie star, astronaut or pro ballplayer, but few achieve those goals. Later in life, people scale back those lofty dreams and create more reasonable “bucket lists” for what they want to accomplish.

Not everyone gets decades to fulfill those dreams. For young people and their families struggling with serious medical issues, those dreams and wishes could boil down to just one good wish. Wishes are often as routine as riding a horse, going to an amusement park or attending a ballgame. For children and their families with life-threatening medical issues, such “magic moments” can make a huge difference in their lives.

Fortunately, some people want to help make those wishes come true. One Alabama organization, Magic Moments, tries to arrange for sick children to experience that one thing they really want to do in life.

“Our mission is to provide nonmedical wishes, what we consider magic moments, for children in Alabama,” said Sandy Naramore, executive director of Magic Moments. “The wishes are for children ages 4 to 18 years old who have chronic, life-threatening conditions. Our goal is to bring happiness to a child. It could be a trip to Disney World, a puppy, horseback riding lessons and many other wishes. Whatever the child wants, we try to accommodate that wish.”

Based in Birmingham, Naramore made a career of teaching special education classes. She was a school administrator and assistant principal. About 15 years ago, she retired from the school system to run a center for children with autism.

“Getting involved with Magic Moments was my calling,” Naramore said. “When I retired from the school system, I ran Mitchell’s Place in Birmingham. It’s a comprehensive center for kids on the autism spectrum. I did that for nine years. During that time, I got to know the mission of Magic Moments. I had always said there was only one thing in Birmingham that could get me to leave Mitchell’s Place, and it was Magic Moments.”

Founded by Shelley Clark and Buffy Marks, whose daughter had a serious illness, Magic Moments began in 1984 with the goal of bringing happiness to chronically ill children. That first year, they helped grant the wishes of three children. Since then, they’ve helped more than 5,000 children enjoy a magic moment. Magic Moments has received support from the Alabama Power Foundation.

Hospital staff, social workers and others refer children to Magic Moments. Magic Moments staff evaluate each case and work with a child’s doctors to see what they can do to put a smile on that youngster without endangering the child.

“At Magic Moments, we are not medical people,” Naramore said. “We ask the family detailed questions, get the child’s diagnosis and history. We love to hear their stories. Then, we try to grant their wish, if possible.”

Through the years, Magic Moments has taken many children to places they wanted to visit, let them experience many activities and arranged for them to meet their heroes. For example, one child wanted to go on a family camping trip to Colorado and learn how to fly-fish. Another little girl wanted to experience life as a pastry chef. Magic Moments arranged for her to visit New York City and get private pastry lessons, in which she learned to make cakes in the shape of a purse.

“We’ve had some fabulous requests,” Naramore said. “One little girl from the Mobile area was a ballerina. When she learned she had cancer, she could not perform or continue her lessons. She wanted to go to New York and see ‘The Nutcracker’ at Christmas. We arranged for her to go backstage and meet the dancers. Another boy wanted to become a pianist. Ellis Piano in Birmingham worked with us on the price and shipped it for free.”

In Alabama, Magic Moments usually does more group activities than individual wishes. Around Halloween, they take children trick-or-treating in their hospitals. Sometimes, they go to a ballgame or an entertainment park. They take children to Children’s Harbor at Lake Martin every year for Memorial Day.

“We spend three days and two nights at a family camp,” Naramore said. “About 350 people will attend that camp because it’s for the whole family. At Christmas, we do a breakfast with Santa and Mrs. Claus. At ‘Bama Lights, Lisa Settembrino and K.C. Komer, two incredible people, decorate their property with Christmas lights and collect money for us. We do a reveal there with Santa Claus surprising a child with his or her magic moment. At Easter three years ago, Gov. Kay Ivey invited our families to an Easter egg hunt at the mansion.”

In the past, Magic Moments took children to Hawaii and sent them on Caribbean cruises. However, for safety reasons, the organization no longer takes children outside the continental United States.

“When a child has a fragile medical condition, goes far from home and becomes ill, it creates a very difficult situation for the family to get needed medical services and to get back home,” Naramore said

Every wish takes money and people. The average magic moment costs about $5,000 and the organization hopes to grant 100 every year. Magic Moments does fundraisers throughout the year, but the small staff can use help every day. Magic Moments relies heavily upon volunteers to help.

“Doing something for a child is so unbelievably rewarding to us adults,” Naramore said. “It’s so heartwarming, but unfortunately, it’s also very hard on us. We become very attached to our families and get to know them like our own families. We see them throughout the year and visit the children in the hospital. We take them some goodies or do whatever we can to brighten their day.”

To get involved, call 205-777-5700, send an email to [email protected] or visit the website at www.magicmoments.org.

This story originally appeared in Alabama Living magazine.

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