The threat of ice in the forecast didn’t stop more than 400 guests from packing the house at the sold out Hope Is Where the Heart Is gala at the Chase Park Plaza on Feb. 10.
The highlight of the evening was hearing the courageous stories of Matthew, a young man we fly to the Mayo Clinic for treatment of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and Elizabeth, a 5-year-old girl with a smile that lights up the room, whom we fly to St. Louis Shriners.
Elizabeth made her way across the stage using a walker — a great accomplishment as this time last year she couldn’t walk! She spent the first five years of her life pulling herself from room to room using her forearms. A life-changing surgery at Shriners in May has moved Elizabeth closer to someday walking without a walker. Elizabeth’s good friend John Cordell, the Shriner who drives her between Shriners and Wings of Hope, joined her on stage to talk about the special bond the two have formed on Elizabeth’s trips to St. Louis. John shared the story of how when he and his wife learned that Elizabeth’s big surgery would take place on her 5th birthday, they arranged to take Elizabeth out to a birthday dinner celebration the night before. Elizabeth calls this “the best day of my life.”
Twenty-eight-year-old Matthew shared how learning he had cancer “turned his life upside down and put everything on hold.” Matthew’s “everything” includes serving in the Air Force Reserve for almost 11 years — including being deployed twice — studying to be a nurse, and working as a police officer. He had just applied to join the Mississippi Highway Patrol when he found out he had cancer. Even though Matthew has some radiation treatment ahead, he shared the good news that his cancer is in remission!
Matthew’s mom, Kim, spoke about what Wings of Hope and the dinner auction meant to her.
“You never know how the things you did tonight, like bidding on items or the silent auction — you give and you help others, which is what we’ve always tried to do is give and help others — you don’t know when it’s going to be you that needs the help. And we are so grateful for you reaching out to us in our time of need.”