ISSUED: 20 October 2021
MEDIA CONTACT: Dana Costa
SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Students at Shepherd University are launching a campaign through the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s Wishmakers on Campus program to fulfill a local child’s dream and send him on a trip of a lifetime.
Gabriel Lee, 7, is a Gerrardstown Elementary School first grader who is full of energy and curiosity. His all-time favorite movie is “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.” He’s excited that Shepherd students are working to fulfill his wish to visit New York City during the holiday season for an experience similar to the adventures the main character, Kevin McCallister, had in the movie.
Shepherd’s Division of Student Affairs is creating a student leadership team to oversee a Wishmakers on Campus chapter that will spearhead efforts to raise money so Gabe and his family can take his dream trip to New York City. Wishmakers on Campus is a program through Make-a-Wish that gives college students the opportunity to plan and coordinate fundraising campaigns to help Make-A-Wish grant more wishes to kids with critical illnesses.
During a recent visit to campus, Shelby Maly, coordinator for student affairs social media and special initiatives, and Danielle Stephenson, graduate assistant for student community service, explained to Gabe that Shepherd students are working to make his dream trip come true. They made Gabe an honorary Ram and presented him with a goody basket full of Shepherd items.
Gabe expressed excitement that one of his first experiences as an honorary Ram will be riding on a fire truck during Saturday’s Homecoming parade.
“I’m super excited,” Maly said. “I think this is going to be a great thing for our campus to come together and rally around this child and future children.”
Stephenson said one goal in taking on this new community service project is to do something for a local child.
“We as a community can help make a wish come true, directly see where our fundraising efforts are going, and rally our community together,” Stephenson said. “Having this on campus is going to unite us even more as a Ram family. I really hope it inspires people to give back to their community in some way because we all know someone who can benefit from different acts of service.”
“This has been a difficult year and a half. We feel like this is going to help people refocus and think about some good things in life,” said Holly Morgan Frye, vice president for student affairs and director of community relations. “We think once they meet Gabe, they’re going to really understand what life is really about and how we need to think of others. He is a charming little boy who I think our students, staff, and faculty are going to fall in love with.”
Gabe’s mother, Morgan Lee, said Gabe was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a birth defect that affects normal blood flow through the heart.
“It essentially means the left side of his heart didn’t form,” Lee said. “You can survive with one pumping chamber, but in order to do that they have to do a three-phase reconstructive surgery. They essentially make a new chamber, so they’re replumbing their entire anatomy.”
Gabe’s three surgeries took placed at ages six days, eight months, and three years. His mother said after the third surgery, doctors gave Gabe a pacemaker that he is 100 percent dependent upon.
Shepherd’s Wishmakers on Campus has a goal of raising $4,400 to cover the cost of Gabe’s trip to New York City. Any money raised beyond that amount will go toward making a wish come true for another child in the future. To donate, visit the Wishmakers on Campus website.
Audio of Shelby Maly, Danielle Stephenson, and Morgan Lee is available here.
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