BRATTLEBORO - From almost the first day that Barbara Harris found out about the work that the Make-A-Wish Foundation does, she knew she wanted to be a part of the organization.
Make-A-Wish works with children who have a life threatening illness and helps them fulfill a wish they might have to travel to somewhere special, meet someone famous, receive a gift of some kind or spend a day in a profession.
All of the wishes are chosen by the children.
Harris found out about the group in 2002 and quickly signed up for a training session. Now she is committing herself even more to make sure every family with a sick child in southeastern Vermont knows about Make-A-Wish.
Harris was recently elected to the Board of Directors of the Vermont Make-A-Wish foundation.
She will serve a three-year term on the 12-member board, and while she is ready to help the organization at the administrative level, she said she wants to help spread the word throughout Windham County.
"This group helps children who are going through a very tough period in their life, and we help them so they have a good memory later on," said Harris. "I want to do everything I can to help them grow."
Serving the children of Windham County is nothing new for Harris.
She has been on the boards at The United Way of Windham County and The Winston Prouty Center, and helps every year with the Reformer Christmas Stocking.
And while all
For the past 10 years Harris has been a certified wish granter, which means she is the one who, with one other person, sits down with the child to talk about his or her deepest wishes.
These are children who are battling life threatening, and sometimes terminal, diseases and Harris has been able to sit down with them and really listen to what they have to say.
Then, when everything works out, she knows she had a part in fulfilling that wish.
"It's such a vulnerable population," Harris said about the children she works with. "There are so many kids who are in good health and who have good homes. But some kids don't have that."
There are currently only seven wish granters in Windham County, and along with broadening the fund raising activities in Windham County, Harris wants to spread the word about the group.
Harris said most of Vermont's population is in the northern half of the state, and many of the sickest children end up in Burlington, at Fletcher Allen Medical Center, or at Dartmouth Hitchcock in Lebanon, N.H.
She said one child she was working with was battling a particularly challenging illness and her doctor said the child could not fulfill her wish until she was through the treatment.
After the wish was granted, the child's mother told Harris that the dream of fulfilling the wish was always a target that kept her going through the treatments.
"It is such a wonderful thing and there are still people who don't know about it," she said. "I know there is more we can do to educate the public."
For more information on the Vermont Make-A-Wish chapter go to www.Vermont.wish.org.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at email@example.com or at 802-254-2311 ext. 279.