Magic Moments is the only wish granting organization devoted exclusively to creating magic moments in the lives of children in Alabama with chronically life threatening medical conditions. A magic moment allows children and their families to forget, even if just for a little while, the fear and pain of their illness.
Magic Moments began in October 1984 because of the efforts of two Birmingham mothers, Shelley Clark and Buffie Marks. The inspiration behind our creation started when Shelley and her daughter saw a story on television about a boy in the hospital whose dream was to ride in a fire engine. While he was in the hospital, his family arranged for the local fireman to drive a fire engine to the hospital to tell him he would get a ride in it as soon as he was well enough. The pure joy that Shelley saw on this little boy’s face and the hope for this dream she saw in his eyes so profoundly inspired her that she thought, “We have to do this in Birmingham; we have to give children in Alabama struggling with illness this kind of hope and lift of spirit.” Shelley then began talking to other community activists and medical professionals and connected with L.E. Patton through Buffie who was then volunteering at Children’s Hospital (now Children’s of Alabama). Their efforts, and a $500 grant from the Junior League of Birmingham, enabled Magic Moments to be born and the work of creating once-in-a-lifetime memories for children with serious illnesses began. In just three short months Magic Moments had fulfilled “dreams-come-true" for three chronically ill children. Today that number is over 4,200, serving children in every county of Alabama.
We have grown from a small, volunteer-only project in Birmingham, to a federally-recognized 501(c) 3 state-wide organization that has provided magic moments to children in every one of the 67 counties in Alabama. Magic Moments is able to fulfill its mission through the support of generous contributors and revenue from fundraising events. We have a staff of four fulltime employees and operate under the guidance of a 24-member Board of Directors, 100% of whom financially support Magic Moments. We maintain strong connections with a regional board in Montgomery, a Junior Board of young professionals and volunteers and an Advisory Board comprised of former executive committee members and past board chairs.
Because we are a Birmingham-based charity, we are able to make personal connections with the families we serve. All our staff members and the majority of our volunteers, community partners and funders are Alabama residents and natives. They frequently work, pray and go to school with Magic Moments family members, allowing them to see first-hand the powerful impact of a magic moment.
Who do we serve?
Our children come from a wide range of socio-economic, cultural and racial backgrounds and face such life threatening medical conditions as cancer, heart disease, sickle cell disease, brain and spinal cord injuries. Frequently they have a secondary medical condition, often caused by the harsh drugs used to treat their primary illness. While we do not require that the children we serve demonstrate financial need, the sad reality is that many live at or below poverty level. Because the parents of seriously ill and chronically ill children frequently struggle with large medical bills and missed work, they are often unable to provide the extras such as computers or family vacations.
The need for magical moments
Parents tell us that they simply want their child to have the opportunity to laugh and play like a “normal” kid – to experience the everyday joys of childhood that are so often lacking when a child has spent much of his or her life in a hospital bed. Physicians consistently confirm that a patient’s positive outlook can have a profound impact on their progress and well-being.
How a moment is created
Travel and family vacations are our most common requests. Medical complications and expenses make vacations almost impossible for families to undertake, yet they are often desperately needed; a vacation allows families time to relax, reconnect, and focus on fun, often for the first time in years. Younger children most often choose to go to Disney World. Older children who may be grasping desperately at an uncertain future sometimes have a very specific dream destination. In the past few months, we have sent a budding “fashionista” to Fashion Week in New York, an aspiring singer to meet Adam Levine on “The Voice” and a child passionate about American history to her dream city of Boston. One young man currently on our waiting list loves cowboys and has requested to take a train “out West” and see real cowboys at a rodeo.
The physical toll that a severe illness takes on a child’s appearance can often be overwhelming, especially for teenagers. Frequently, children ask for new clothes, wigs, or even braces. While these things may seem small, they can make all the difference in the life of a child who desperately wants to be just like everyone else. For older children struggling for normalcy and looking desperately towards the future, we have provided tuition assistance for classes and even secured internships at a New York magazine. Computer systems and shopping sprees for electronics are frequently requested by very ill children, many of whom spend extraordinary amounts of time at doctors’ offices and in and out of hospitals. For these children, portable electronics such as iPads and gaming devices provide distraction and entertainment. Other magic moments include customized playground equipment, adaptive bikes and medical gliders, even a custom fishing pond for a little boy who loves to fish!