Limestone County resident Kyara wasn't sure what to expect Thursday morning as she rode down U.S. 31 in Athens. Life has a way of throwing curveballs at the 18 year old.
Kyara has battled childhood cancer and is currently in full remission. According to Make-A-Wish Alabama, Kyara is one of 90 “wish kids” in northern Alabama waiting on a wish to be granted.
Or, at least, she was.
After waiting four years, Make-A-Wish Alabama told Kyara her wish of going to the beach was finally being granted. Kyara said she has never had the opportunity to visit the coast.
Lacy Fitzpatrick, the North Alabama development manager for the organization, said a big reveal party was planned for Kyara and her family back in March. But when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, they had to push everything back.
Make-A-Wish Alabama was finally ready and able to send her on her journey in late August — then Hurricane Laura struck the Gulf Coast.
Hoping the third time would be the charm, Make-A-Wish once again endeavored to grant Kyara's wish. With Kyara in tow, Fitzpatrick drove the SUV down the highway and toward Athens High.
Unbeknownst to Kyara, members of the student council at Athens High had been collecting money for the last two years as part of the Kids for Wish Kids fundraising program. Several local schools participate.
According to Fitzpatrick, the students raised $10,000 for Make-A-Wish as part of the program, and those funds are helping send Kyara and her family to Orange Beach in order to grant her wish.
“That is incredible,” Fitzpatrick said. “It says a lot about Athens City Schools, and the high school and the students. We are very thankful for them.”
And, it's all for a girl who did not attend Athens High herself. Kyara is a 2020 graduate of Tanner High School. She is currently attending Calhoun Community College, studying child development.
Make-A-Wish Alabama and Athens High School planned a send-off party for Kyara in honor of her trip finally getting underway. Athens High students and faculty members lined the road circling the school in order to wave at Kyara and wish her well as the vehicle drove by.
Many of the students and faculty members were dressed in beach-themed attire and held up signs wishing Kyara a fun trip. Some students even drew her name and other messages of support in chalk along the roadway.
“This is great,” said Beth Patton, acting superintendent for Athens City Schools. “The students have worked so hard to raise the money to be able to do this. We are so excited for (Kyara) to get this opportunity to go to the beach.”
Fitzpatrick said Kyara had no idea AHS had planned the celebration for her or helped raise funds until the vehicle drove up to the school.
“I was very surprised,” Kyara said. “I didn't expect it. (The students) didn't have to do what they did, but they did. I am very happy.”
When asked what Kyara plans on doing first on her wish-fulfilling trip to Orange Beach, she said she was not sure but that she will “figure something out.”
Fitzpatrick said Kyara and her family will have the chance to go on a helicopter ride, parasailing and ride on a gyroplane as part of the trip.
“This is something we have wanted for her for so long, and she had no idea today was happening,” Fitzpatrick said. “I told her these people surrounding the school are so happy to see you today and wish you well on your trip. It was such a good feeling.”
Kyara and her family were set to leave on the trip right after the celebration ended. Fortunately, the weather outlook on the gulf this weekend appears better than a hurricane making landfall.
Visit alabama.wish.org for more information on Make-A-Wish Alabama or the Kids for Wish Kids program.