I have always aspired to combine my passion for children with my desire to connect with my community. Before moving to Alabama, I was a volunteer child advocate assistant for a domestic violence shelter in Tennessee. The experience was gut-wrenching at times, but it was also incredibly rewarding to ensure that for a couple hours a week, those children had a safe place to share, play and be loved.
After moving to Huntsville, Ala., in 2014 with my husband, Bruce, I wanted desperately to recreate that opportunity for myself, but those plans would go on hold. I struggled to find the right fit, and then in 2017, Bruce and I were overjoyed to find out we were expecting our first child.
At 22 weeks, our lives – and perspectives – changed forever. After weeks of perfect checkups, Bruce and I were told that our baby was in the beginning stages of heart failure. Our situation was so rare that there was no definite path for treatment, but our doctor had spoken with some experts who had performed experimental treatments on their patients with favorable outcomes. There were no guarantees, but it was our only hope.
Nothing prepares you for the crushing pain of being told your child may not make it. It took everything in us to keep it together before we just fell apart outside the doctor’s office. Each week that followed, we sat on edge as every molecule of our baby was meticulously checked. At 34 weeks we were told we had made it as far as we could. We knew there was a possibility that our son could have heart defects that may require surgery, that he may have lifelong health issues, and that there was a very real possibility he would have to stay in the NICU.
I’ll never forget the overwhelming relief of hearing my son’s tiny cry when he was born. The NICU doctor even said his heart sounded great. One month later, the pediatric cardiologist gave our tiny fighter, Jackson Sharp, a clean bill of health. That has never been lost on us.
In June 2018, I saw a news article about Make-A-Wish Alabama needing volunteer wish granters in the Huntsville area. I immediately knew this was the opportunity I was waiting for, and the time was right to get back to helping other children and their families. I shared my plans with Bruce, and I was surprised with how willing he was to join me! We attended the wish granter training together, and immediately signed up for our first wish kid as a couple. After meeting our wish kid and his family, we left feeling so blessed to have crossed paths with these incredible people.
Kristyna and Bruce
It was only a couple months later that we signed up to help our second wish kid, who is the strongest and bravest 2 ½ year old we have ever met. He has so much personality and a smile that lights up the world.
Hearing wish families’ stories and seeing their battles can just break your heart, because it never makes sense as to why an innocent child has to go through such difficult trials. There’s not a day that goes by that Bruce and I don’t know how blessed we are that Jackson’s heart is healthy. Volunteering with Make A Wish feels like our way of recognizing the gift we were given and in return helping create life-changing experiences that bring joy and hope to children and families who are still on their health care journeys. It has been such a dream to be able to do this alongside my husband and to share this experience with him.
My hope is that we will raise Jackson to understand the importance of gratefulness, compassion, and being a blessing to others – and maybe even watch him one day become a wish granter himself.
Photos courtesy of Kristyna Moore
BECOME A WISH GRANTER! Make-A-Wish trains wish volunteers to help children identify their most heartfelt wish, and then bring the experience to life. Visit your local chapter’s website to learn more about its volunteer needs. FIND MY LOCAL CHAPTER
Show us some love this week by posting your favorite Make-A-Wish memories to Facebook or Twitter using #HugsAndWishes and #SpreadLove. Read the full “Hugs and Wishes” blog series here!