CARTHAGE, Mo. — Friday afternoon in Carthage marked a first for an organization that grants wishes to critically ill children across two states.
The Make-A-Wish Missouri and Kansas chapter granted three wishes to three Carthage children during an assembly at the Carthage Intermediate Center in front of hundreds of cheering Carthage third, fifth and sixth graders.
• Quill Baxter, 9, a third grader at Mark Twain School, is going with his family to Disney World.
• Paige Talbot, 10, a fifth grader at the Carthage Intermediate Center, is going with her mom, dad and brother to Hawaii.
• Austin Davis, 12, a sixth grader at the Intermediate Center, is going with his family on a Caribbean cruise, including a trip to an island theme park in the Bahamas.
Game show reveal
The three found out the good news together when Make-A-Wish volunteers traveled to Carthage to present their wishes.
Quill, along with his third grade classmates, were bused from Mark Twain School to the CIC to participate in the reveal, which took the form of a trivia contest.
The Mark Twain third graders gathered with the fifth and sixth graders at the CIC gymnasium for the contest.
Quill, Paige and Austin were matched up with two of their classmates each in three rounds of trivia. The contests were rigged, with the other two students in each round playing along to lose and group the three winners together.
Austin said he knew something was up when counselor Caleb Bayless started asking the questions.
“When they said my name, then when all the questions were cruise-related, I knew something was up,” Austin said. “I knew when my parents were there and one of the signs said 'wish' on it, and the cruise-related questions, I knew I got my wish.”
Chad Baker, volunteer wish granter who traveled from St. Louis to help pass on the good news, said the looks on the kids' faces and the faces of the parents are the reason he works with Make-A-Wish.
“I saw the parents’ faces light up, and man, I’m still on an adrenaline rush,” Baker said. “This is exactly why we do it, just seeing the joy and knowing that they’re going to get their wish and have so much fun.
“It was surreal, having the whole school cheering, the whole school shouting the answers to the questions and getting excited for Quill and Paige and Austin, seeing the families on the front row and center, the energy in the room was electrifying.”
‘It means everything’
Austin said he loves the water, and a cruise is a chance to stay on the water for a whole week.
“It’s really exciting," he said. "I get to be on the water for quite a long time, and I really like water slides. I really just wanted to go on a cruise, but once they suggested Stay Away at CocoCay, I thought that would be really cool to go on.”
Austin’s mom, Nicole Davis, said Austin’s cancer is in remission, but the battle has been very hard on him and the family.
“He was diagnosed one year ago today, Jan. 10, 2019,” Nicole Davis said. “It took us four months to get him into the hospital from September 2018 to January of 2019. I wouldn’t wish this on any child or any parents. Now that he’s in remission, at least he can be a kid and do something he’s never experienced before, and this trip is wonderful. It means everything."
Quill Baxter’s mom, Emily Baxter, said he got the chance to go to Disney World last year when his sister, Hannah, who is also battling a chronic disease, was granted a trip from Make-A-Wish.
“He’s over the moon,” Emily Baxter said. “It’s just very special. Quill’s had a hard life, and it’s neat to see some good come to him. When it came time that he was approved for a Make-A-Wish trip, we asked him what he wanted to do, and it was pretty clear, he wanted to go back to Disney.”
Quill said Disney was “a fun place.”
“My wish came true,” he said. “I want to see a Pirate (of the Caribbean). I’m pretty excited, very excited. You get free toys and some stuff.”
Brent Baxter, Quill’s dad, said Disney volunteers go over the top for Make-A-Wish children visiting the park.
“From the second you land at the airport, you’re gone, they’re just right there every step of the way and make it so easy,” Brent Baxter said. “They don’t let the parents lift a finger, and they realize that everybody needs a break.”
Paige Talbot said she’s excited to go to Hawaii in a few weeks.
“We’ve never been there before, and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance,” Paige said. “As soon as we decided that’s where I wanted to go, I’ve been looking it up for the past four months. It’s going to be tropical, and there will be luaus and everything.”
Paige’s mom, Chelsea Talbot, said Paige, who is battling cystic fibrosis, spent months researching the different places she’d like to go once she found out she’d be eligible for a Make-A-Wish trip.
“She spent months and months researching the different places around the world she’d like to travel to,” Chelsea Talbott said. “Disney World was one of them, but she knew that would be kind of tough for her because her disease limits her ability to breathe sometimes. Roller coasters can be a challenge as well.
“So we settled on maybe somewhere on the beach, somewhere nice and sunny with nice weather and some place where we could enjoy our time as a family and this extraordinary opportunity to have something we could never give her ourselves.”
By the numbers
Make-A-Wish Foundation says the wishes granted in Carthage on Friday are three of 433 wishes the Missouri and Kansas chapter hopes to grant in 2020.
The group estimates that each year 600 children are newly diagnosed with a critical illness that qualifies them for a wish from the local Make-A-Wish chapter. Research shows that children who have wishes granted build the physical and emotional strength needed to fight a critical illness.
Make-A-Wish has granted more than 300,000 wishes in the U.S. and its territories since its inception in 1980.