FORT MILL — Kelly Kern knows what it’s like to see her daughter’s wish come true and she wants to see that happen for other children.
Her daughter, Libby Kern, 4, spent the last 16 months undergoing chemotherapy treatments. A tumor of the optic nerve has already caused blindness in her left eye and eventually could affect her right eye.
Her parents, hoping to make some memories with her in case she loses her sight entirely, contacted the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
In February, Libby’s wish to meet Ariel came true when the Make-A-Wish foundation sent the Fort Mill family to Walt Disney World.
“It was amazing. Our family needed that togetherness. It’s always Libby and I, my husband with the other kids or at work, working so hard. So just for the five of us to be together and not worry about the money, that’s the priceless thing about it, the time as a family,” Kelly Kern said.
Kern hopes to give other families the same gift by participating in the Walk for Wishes on Saturday. Libby will be one of the Walk for Wishes ambassadors.
The South Carolina Chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation is holding the walk in Rock Hill’s Cherry Park to raise awareness and money to help grant wishes for children from York, Chester and Lancaster counties.
Right now, 26 children from those counties are waiting for their wishes to be granted.
The walk is a family friendly 5K beginning at 9 a.m. and ending at noon. Walkers are asked to set a goal of $100 or more in pledges.
Walkers can register online up to the night before the event or in person on Saturday morning.
The Walk for Wishes is organized by volunteers from the local Walk for Wishes chapter, said Megan Harding, communications and logistics coordinator for Make-A-Wish, and has inspired other volunteer groups around the state to consider similar fundraising efforts, she said.
“We have people coming to the walk from around the state and taking that enthusiasm back to where they live. It has been a statewide, grass-roots, community effort,” Harding said.
That’s important, she said, because the South Carolina chapter of Make-A-Wish granted 142 wishes and is on track to do the same this year. It never turns away a child who is medically qualified for a wish, Harding said, and those wishes depend on fundraisers like the Walk for Wishes.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation has granted wishes ranging from Libby’s Disney World dream to smaller dreams, such as a child’s dream to share her room with her big sister, or a daughter’s dream of a big wedding for her mother. To qualify, a child must have a life-threatening disease.
At Disney World, Libby and her family stayed at a resort for wish recipients, where they were treated to private meet-and-greets with characters each day and other special treats. Airfare, accommodations and spending money were provided to make the trip as easy and enjoyable as possible. The family visited the Disney parks as well as Sea World and Universal Studios.
“We had a private audience, without any line, to see Belle, Mary Poppins, Mickey Mouse, Pluto,” Kelly Kern said. “There were a lot of tears. It was very emotional.”
During chemotherapy, Libby’s tumor shrank 40 percent. Now the doctors are “watching and waiting,” said Kern. Surgery on the tumor is too risky at this point, she added. Libby will have an MRI every three months to monitor the tumor.