Six-year-old Kionna steps out onto the dirt floor of the barn. For a moment, she breathes in the dusty air and the earthy smell of cattle and horses. Surrounding her are her family and people from the community who have come out to support her wish. But she has a greater purpose in mind than simply riding a horse. As a newly minted sheriff, it’s time to save the day.
Kionna was diagnosed with a rare form of kidney cancer, Wilms tumor, at a young age. She is now in remission and was able to take part in all of the carefully planned aspects of her wish.
While watching her favorite television show, she came to love everything an Old West sheriff represents. To Kionna, becoming a sheriff wasn’t just about the trappings of the role – the stylish hat, lasso and gold star. It was about how the show’s sheriff always saves the day.
Kionna knew exactly what sorts of activities a sheriff would have to become skilled at. She would need to ride a white horse, lasso a magic treasure chest and hold live animals like a chicken.
There was one perfect place where Sheriff Kionna could have full reign over the rascals, outlaws and pioneers of the American west: Heaven’s Gate Farm in Monroe, Ga. Kionna’s community ensured that the facility and other aspects of the wish were donated in-kind to her local chapter. They knew that a sheriff needs wide-open spaces and plenty of horses.
To really save the day, Kionna first got to look the part of sheriff. Her costume was made up of a matching pink vest, bandana and cowgirl hat. Dressed in the proper attire, she arrived with nine family members in tow to cheer her on. Everyone from her great-grandmother and grandmother to her siblings and cousin came to watch her.
The first indication of the excitement ahead was the pink table topped with an over-sized cowboy boot, hat and a matching pink welcome sign. This was only the beginning of the personalized details volunteers used to harken back to the days of the Wild West.
First on the list of sheriff duties was to practice her horse-riding skills. With a pink helmet on, she rode a white horse, which quickly became her favorite activity. In between her other responsibilities as sheriff, she kept returning to hone her horse-riding abilities.
With several dozen people from her community in attendance, Kionna decorated horseshoes, watched demonstrations of horseback riding and enjoyed a BBQ lunch. She also learned how to lasso a magic treasure chest from a lasso expert. The chest was filled with goodies to help her on her cowgirl quest.
The day would not be complete, though, without a sheriff ceremony. Officers from the Walton County Sheriff’s Department made a special appearance to name Kionna an honorary deputy for the day. They presented her with a badge, followed by a ride in the squad car where she sounded the siren.
Photos: Kristin Benton Photography