A five-star night… Students instrumental in helping local boy’s Make A Wish dream reality

Published 1:09 am Tuesday, September 24, 2019

‘When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires will come to you’
These simple words written in 1940 have been the theme for Disney for many years but they are as still relevant today as they were when they were penned as on Friday night before the Elizabethton and Grainger County football game, a young boy in the community was able to realize one of his special dreams thanks to not one but five stars.
Greyson Walsh will be heading to Disney during the week of Fall Break thanks to the efforts of five students in the Bartleby Community Improvement Class at Elizabethton High School who raised the funds for Walsh and his family to make the trip in conjunction with the Make A Wish foundation.
Those five students in Dustin Hensley’s class are Alexis Shelton, Kensie Puckett, Caleb Miller, Makayla Coad, and Aidan Taylor who graduated in 2018.
Shelton was the spearhead of the group and first learned of Walsh and his Make A Wish dream through her mother.
My mom is a pediatric private duty nurse so she works with a lot of disabled young children in our community,” Shelton said. “I happened to be really close to one of her patient’s sisters because we went to elementary school together so we rekindled and learned that my mom was actually her little brother’s nurse.
“I was like wow, okay cool! Her little brother was approved through Make A Wish to have his wish granted and he was cleared by his doctors so it was just a matter of getting him there. 
“So I thought because I was in my Community Improvement Class with Bartleby that I could take the opportunity and help sponsor him to get there. They are actually going in two weeks on Fall Break which is great. 
“We started there. We were like Greyson is a great little boy so why not help him. It was a great opportunity for him.” 
Like many projects in the adult world, some of the first few attempts at raising the amount of funds just didn’t pan out for the group but through a lot of drive, the students kept working to make the dream a reality.
“The first plan was me and my mom’s basic stuff like t-shirt selling – something that would get the community involved. One night before the semester started, my friend Makayla (Coad) who is part of the group, we got together and started planning and I invited her to be part of the group,” Shelton continued. 
“She even got her class schedule changed so she could help. We sat in her room and went through all these different fundraiser things and we talked with my mom as well and a basketball tournament was discussed in getting all the schools in the community involved would be a really good way to get his story out, raise money, and get it all together and of course selling t-shirts.
“This basketball tournament fell through because the TSSAA regulations wouldn’t allow it because of the off-season and stuff but within an instant, we were back on the ground and running with a formal because the Spring Formal had been canceled and I was like why not try to do one more formal before graduation so the seniors could have one last bash.”
The formal was a huge undertaking for the students as they had to make plans to bring everything together but when all was said and done, their resilience paid off in a big way as they managed to raise $3,770 dollars for Walsh’s Make A Wish.
Shelton, who was working all the time through the Make A Wish foundation, was in constant contact with the organization and the money raised was given toward Walsh’s trip leaving the only thing left to be done was the family going to Disney and having a fun time.
Shelton stated the experience was both rewarding and humbling at the same time.
“It’s humbling. It makes me appreciate the small things like breathing on my own, walking and talking on my own. I have learned that small things like that you don’t need to take for granted. I wanted to give Greyson the opportunity to have this experience,” Shelton said.
“He gets to stay in this really cool Make A Wish hotel named Give Kids the World and there is so much to do in the hotel that he doesn’t even have to go to Disney.” 
Shelton added, “Mr. Hensley was wonderful and was there every step of the way.”
Hensley said that all he had to do was present the opportunity and his students were off and running.
“All the students were asked to find something in the community that they wanted to improve or an issue that they could really help solve. Whenever I gave Alexis and the rest of the students that task, they knew immediately that there was this little boy that needed help that they wanted to help sponsor financially and for students that is a big task,” Hensley stated.
“The students had to overcome how do they collect thousands of dollars. And just watching their grit and determination because they had quite a few failures at the very beginning because a few things they tried didn’t get off the ground so I think its really important for kids to wrestle with failure in a safe environment.
“Inside the school, there is a safety net because they have the ability to fail and it will be okay because usually if you are in a class and fail, you are doomed. You have to retake the class. In the Community Improvement Class, you get the opportunity to fail and learn from that.”

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