KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — When 17-year-old Lydia thought of what she wanted most, she told the Make-A-Wish Foundation that she'd like a French bulldog to keep her company while she battles a heart condition.
Hers was the latest wish Make-A-Wish East Tennessee has granted during the pandemic.
"We were able to grant that wish and it was amazing. The first time that she got to meet that French bulldog, she lit up. Her whole family did. She's spent these past several weeks developing a feeding schedule and bathing schedule -- and really making an incredible bond with that French bulldog that she named Tiana Belle because she's also a big fan of Disney movies," said Garrett Wagley, the CEO of Make-A-Wish East Tennessee.
Unlike Lydia's wish for a puppy, Wagley said the majority of wishes they grant in East Tennessee are travel-related. Many kids wish to visit Disney World, so he's had to have several tough conversations with kids in even tougher situations.
"It's hard. We're in the business of giving kids hope," Wagley said. None of the wishes have been canceled, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation launched a new initiative to encourage the children who will have to wait a little longer for their wishes.
It's called Messages of Hope.
"We're asking folks, anybody, to record themselves and send a message of hope to wish kids. They're feeling like we are right now, but their wishes have been postponed. So, we're, we're asking people to send that message and say, 'Hey, keep hope alive. Hang in there, your wish is going to happen," Wagley said.
Wagley said they've had to postpone 30 wishes in East Tennessee, but they're currently working on granting wishes for items like a new swing set or computer. There's even a boy in the Tri-Cities who wants to be a superhero, so Wagley said they're working on a way to do that while staying socially distant.
While many wishes are on hold, Wagley said the hope that Make-A-Wish sparks will never be postponed.