When the Atlanta Braves descended on Connor Meadows’ school field day in May 2016, it was easily one of the most touching moments of his life.
At 8 years old, Meadows had been diagnosed with Wilms tumor, a form of kidney cancer that primarily affects children. The Braves visited as part of a gift from Make-A-Wish Georgia, surprising everyone at Pickett’s Mill Elementary in Acworth with a visit and treating Connor and some of his closest friends to VIP tickets.
Connor was so touched by the experience he decided to pay it forward. He and some friends formed their own group called the Wish Warriors, and raised enough money over the next year to pay for another child’s wish.
“We were so touched by all the support. Families we didn’t even know cooked for us,” said Connor’s mother, Deborah Meadows. “We thought about how to give back in a bigger way, and decided to put our time and energy into granting another kid’s wish. I told Connor to pick a few Wish buddies, we texted everyone and without hesitation they jumped in.”
Once he was cancer-free, Connor and friends like Brady Rudd held their own fundraisers with a goal of raising $10,000, the average cost of a wish from the Make-A-Wish Georgia.
They created and sold stuffed “Wish Pets,” complete with a certificate of adoption, set up a cake walk during a local Easter festival, formed lemonade stands, held raffles, did a polar plunge into a frigid backyard pool in January, and sold Wish bracelets with the idea that a purchaser’s wish would come true whenever the bracelet fell off.
Just nine month later, they’d raised $10,000. Make-A-Wish hosted a party for the Wish Warriors at Topgolf in Midtown Atlanta, but it wasn’t just a party. Topgolf presented the group with a matching $10,000 donation to bring the total to $20,000, enough for the wishes of two other children.
“The concept was to ‘wish it forward,’” said Amy Alvarez, VP of Marketing and Communications for Make-A-Wish Georgia. “We were amazed by some of the ideas they had, and we’re professional fundraisers!”
Now 11, Connor is ready to celebrate another cancer-free anniversary, and glad he was able to not only receive a wish but to grant one as well.
“This started when I was in the third grade, and now I’m in the fifth grade,” he said. “It has been a long and wonderful experience.”
This is the second installment of Holiday Heroes, a seasonal AJC series that focuses on philanthropic efforts of local Atlantans. Each story captures the charitable impact meant to change communities for the greater good. To read more of the series, visit myAJC.com/living.