By: Gracie King | Feature Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo courtesy of: Grace Passerelli
Every year, the American Cancer Society estimates that over 16,000 children will be diagnosed with some form of life-threatening cancer. In the blink of an eye, 16,000 families and futures are irreparably altered with a simple diagnosis. The Make-A-Wish organization has worked with these families over the last 40 years to grant wishes to children and bring families a few moments of peace in the midst of a hurricane.
The Beta Theta Chapter of Chi Omega here at South has made it their mission to bring their community together in order to support Make-A-Wish Alabama, their national philanthropy which donates directly to families with sick children and helps their wishes come true.
“Songfest,” an annual event put on by Chi Omega, is a singing and dancing competition where various groups on campus put together a short musical number and perform it in front of their peers. This year’s event, which took place on Feb. 18, was the sorority’s 55th anniversary of hosting Songfest, which started as singing Christmas carols on campus.
This year, the young women of Chi Omega were able to raise over $27,000, which will all be donated to Make-A-Wish and begin making wishes come true. At this year’s Songfest, five sororities and nine fraternities choreographed and performed Pokemon and Trolls-themed dances specifically with their wish kids in mind.
Keana Pritchett, a former Make-A-Wish kid, made an appearance at this year’s event to express her gratitude to the foundation after being diagnosed with Stage I ovarian cancer when she was just 15 years old. Her wish was to open up a pet store here in Mobile after growing up on a farm and discovering her love for animals, which is currently being granted.
“The Make-A-Wish Foundation is a wonderful organization. They have truly helped me achieve my dreams and goals in life,” Pritchett said.
Marlee Bradford and Gabrielle Tumbleston, members of the Beta Theta Chapter, were this year’s co-chairs, and assisted each other and their fellow sisters in planning Songfest to perfection.
“It was so fun coordinating Songfest with Gabrielle,” Bradford said. “We spent many, many late nights together, and our sisterhood bond got even closer, no matter what happened and no matter what storm we faced getting there.”
“We had a lot of ups and downs with planning, but it was all worth it in the end, and I’m so glad I was able to help put this event on for the first time in two years,” Tumbleston said. “It just made my heart so happy everyone came out and was so supportive.”
Make-A-Wish has given precious experiences to families all over Alabama, like Braxton Weidman from Birmingham. Braxton, fondly remembered by his friends and family as Braxy, was diagnosed with Glioma Cerebri, one of the most aggressive forms of childhood cancer, in September of 2020. He fought for 17 months but ultimately passed away in his home on Feb. 1, 2022.
Braxton was granted his wish of meeting his all-time favorite YouTuber, DALLMYD, or Jake Koehler, and hunting for “treasures” on the banks of the Chattahoochee River in Columbus, Georgia. After Braxton’s passing, Koehler recounted the experience as “such an honor, but you can’t show any emotion because you know it’s just a kid who wants to have a fun time,” in one of his recent videos.