This is a guest post from Ashley Johnson, a volunteer with Make-A-Wish Metro New York & Western New York.
Growing up, our Thanksgiving tradition wasn’t centered on turkey or my grandma’s dressing—it was on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I can remember my grandma waking me up at 9:00 a.m., warning that if I didn’t get up, I would miss my favorite characters and Santa. So, it was a great privilege to represent Make-A-Wish® as a guest of Southwest Airlines at the 87th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The day started at 8:00 a.m. as Make-A-Wish families arrived at the Southwest Porch at Bryant Park, a centrally-located spot directly on the parade route on 6th Avenue. Southwest greeted Make-A-Wish families with breakfast, warm beverages, and yellow scarves, which came in handy not only for the cold, but also so we couldn’t miss each other on the parade route. The peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and hot cocoa were big hits around the firepit! As the time approached 9:30, I could see the same light in the eyes of the wish kids that I had in my eyes as a child watching the parade on TV. There was so much anticipation as everyone waited to see the balloons and floats. A wish child from Brooklyn couldn’t wait to see her favorite characters. “I’ve never been this close,” she exclaimed.
Not only was the parade route viewable from the Southwest Porch, but families were given the opportunity to view the parade from street level of 6th Avenue in a special section—also the viewing area for police commissioner, Ray Kelly, and former NYC Mayor, Rudy Giuliani. A wish family from Brooklyn expressed their desire to attend the parade for years, especially as New Yorkers, but due to their daughter’s condition and wheelchair, it would have been hard to get through the crowds. This special viewing section was perfect for the families, as many of the wish children and their siblings interacted with parade participants and received showers of confetti.
While the majority of the families in attendance were local New York wish kids, we also saw the international presence of Make-A-Wish with one family from Make-A-Wish Italy in attendance on a wish trip to visit NYC. Thanksgiving was a great day for wish families from Make-A-Wish Metro New York and afar. Although I am sure these children will never forget Thanksgiving 2013, Southwest Airlines ended the day with a gift to each family that included a “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade 2013” ornament. And, they gave an even greater gift, the very mission of Make-A-Wish—the gift of hope. For on this Thanksgiving Day, these families were able to forget everything else and enjoy an once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was a great moment full of laughs, excitement, and smiles for the children and their families.
W. Clement Stone once said, “If you are really thankful, what do you do? You share.” Make-A-Wish is so appreciative that Southwest Airlines projected the Thanksgiving spirit by sharing the 87th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with Make-A-Wish families. This was the first time we teamed up for this event, and we look forward to many more Thanksgivings together. Happy Holidays!