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      Dreams come true through Make A Wish

      It started small with single child more than 30 years ago and even today, the Make A Wish Foundation is still granting wishes to dozens of sick children each year.

      "We steer away from the word 'terminal' because we just don't use that word," said Lilly Walker, Make A Wish Foundation Texas Plains Region Program Service Director. "Our kids have a life threatening illness which is just really impacting them at this time in their lives."

      The North Texas Chapter Texas Plains Region of the foundation has an office in Amarillo and in Lubbock and serves 55 counties in between. Kids ages two and a half to 18 can be referred to the foundation one of three ways: the child, a parent, or a doctor.

      The Lewis family of Amarillo is one of many families who have a child with a life threatening illness. But their 12-year-old daughter, Lexis, isn't the only one in the family. They also have a 6-year-old son, Austin, who also suffers from a serious heart condition.

      "She has muscular dystrophy and she also has sclerosis and spina bifida," said Lexis' and Austin's father, Josh Lewis. "Austin has a hypo plastic left heart condition, also has muscular dystrophy and he's had three open heart surgeries."

      Both of their children were referred to the Make A Wish Foundation by their doctors.

      Make A Wish hopes to grant 80 wishes to those sick children this year and each wish costs about $7,000 on average. Do the math, and that's $560,000 of wishes granted just this year!

      "Our international wishes can range from $20,000-25,000 and that's really a huge difference so we kind of lump it together in like an average," added Walker. "Whatever our kids wish we try and do what we can. If it is an expensive wish like an international wish or something like that we do have a board approve that but it's just one of those processes we have to go through," she said. "There's no limit to what they can dream."

      So when Make A Wish volunteers came to visit the Lewis family and begin working on granting Lexis' and Austin's wishes, the sky was the limit. After some research, Lexis decided she wanted to go on a shopping spree to New York. But Make A Wish didn't stop there, after the Lewis family returned home to Amarillo they also had a welcome back party at The Ruffled Cup where Lexis learned all about her dream -- becoming a baker.

      Disney World is the most popular wish making up 45 percent of the wishes, but foundation employees said if you can think it, it's probably been wished.

      "We've had kids wish to be the President of the United States, not meet, but be the President of the United States," said Randi Hudson, Development Officer for the Make A Wish Foundation.

      "We've done a Hello Kitty room makeover, we've done kind of a man cave for a boy," added Lea Faris, President of the Make A Wish Regional Advisory Board. "Right now we're working on a Disney Cruise for an eight-year-old."

      Something else Make A Wish is still working on is Austin's wish. He decided he wanted to go to a Nascar race and ride in one of the racecars.

      "He may be bouncing off the walls and I may not be able to get him to just settle down," laughed Austin's mom, Jennifer Lewis. "Just telling him that it's a possibility, he's already like oh my gosh we're leaving! So, I'll just be ready with my camera taking pictures."

      But like most organizations, the Make A Wish Texas Plains Region only has a few employees -- three in Amarillo and one in Lubbock -- to help make all of these wishes happen.

      "Everything is through volunteers," said Walker. "They meet with the families, they coordinate the interview, they bring me the paperwork."

      "From a chili cook - off, to a car show, to a golf tournament and ropings. You name it, there's so many events constantly going on but there's also so many other ways to give," said Hudson. "People can donate miles from airlines, people can donate cakes to a sendoff party or a limo ride to the airport for a family going to Disney World."

      No matter the wish, the cost or how they raise the money, Make A Wish said as long as they can help a child smile, it's all worth it.

      "We just like to be able, whether it's for a day or a week, just forget about the doctors and the medicine and all the treatments they go through and just let them be a kid again and that's the most important part," added Walker.

      When asked what Make A Wish did for their family and their kids, both Jennifer and Josh Lewis were quick to say -- it changed their life.

      "The experience that she had of being able to do the things that she did in New York, I think changed her view a little bit about life," said Jennifer.

      "As a parent you always want to do something more and more to make their life exciting or enjoyable," added Josh. "It's just a weight off our shoulders to see them that excited and think that what if this is the last big excitement, at least they got to do it. "So it's an amazing feeling to see them go through that."

      If you want to donate your time or money to the Make A Wish Foundation Amarillo office, call them at 358-9943 or find them online.