The small red barn outside Rogers Student Center seemed out of place, especially on a cool, breezy Saturday in November. The yellow, green and red balloons tied to the roof danced in the wind as a group eagerly waited for the reaction of a 3-year-old boy who was about to get his wish. The boy shuffled toward the barn, occasionally hiding from the crowd behind his older brother. As he spotted the barn and the shiny green tractor in front of it, his shyness vanished and his small mouth gaped open in a goofy grin.
Little Alan, who spent the first two years of his life in hospitals undergoing various surgeries, including a liver transplant, wished for nothing more than a John Deere tractor of his own. Working with the Make-A-Wish foundation, the Tyler Junior College Agriculture Club and Business Leadership Class made Alan’s wish come true.
“It’s humbling to be given so much and it’s an incredible blessing that people who have never met us would care so much about his story and what he’s been through,” Alan’s mother Amy Devine said. “We’re incredibly grateful and he can enjoy this every single day. We’re so grateful that he is with us and we have him. Now he makes everyday sweeter to see him with his brothers and his gift.”
Through member donations, the Agriculture Club was able to pay for the barn while Fish & Still Equipment in Marshall paid for the tractor.
“It wasn’t very hard because if you tell them it’s for a good cause more people are willing to give than if it was just for something that doesn’t really matter,” Agriculture Club Vice President Brandon Phillips said.
The students had to come up with around $400 to pay for the materials for the barn. Chaney Construction volunteered their time and labor to build the barn.
The East Texas chapter of the Make- A-Wish Foundation works with the TJC Business Leadership class to help make terminally ill East Texas children’s wishes come true.
The Make-A-Wish project is a major assignment that the Business Leadership class uses to apply what they’ve learned.
“The most important thing the students get out of the class is they get the feel of being a leader,” Business Management Professor Don Blaine said. “They get to see what it feels like by doing this project. That’s why the project is a [vital] part of the course because it allows them to experience leadership.”
Normally the class only helps one child, but this year the students made the choice to make three children’s wishes come true, including little Alan.
The other two wishes are for 8-year-old Melissa who wants to meet Selena Gomez and 17-year-old Chandler who wants a trip to New York.
“No other class has done it,” said Linsay Owens, business major. “It’s like a challenge for us, but something for the class to feel good about. Instead of just doing one kid we took on the task of helping three because we think that we can do it. We know that we’ll accomplish it.”
To raise money, the Business and Leadership class, along with other school organizations, are selling green bracelets for $1 each.
“The theme started last year. They had the bracelet sales and we kind of just grew off from that,” business major Diondrea Kemp said.
Other school organizations like the Art Club, the Apache Belles and the Agriculture Club are donating their time and materials to help make these wishes come true.
“Some organizations know we’re doing this each year so they are ready to go,” Blaine said.
According to Blaine, this is the Business Leadership class’ seventh year with the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“We’ve completed every wish that we’ve started,” Blaine said. “We have not failed on one wish. It’s just been awesome to see the way that they react to the challenge and then they just give it 110 percent. Every class has kind of gone above what the other class has done so it’s been a real great experience for me because I get to watch them grow.”
The Business Leadership class is asking for any volunteers to help make these children’s wishes come true.
“We would love for any organizations on campus to help us out or any students,” business major Jason Hortman said. “It’s going to take more than just our class to get this goal done that we are trying to accomplish.”
As for little Alan, whose wish was granted, he took his tractor on a ten minute ride through the grassy area between the Genecov science building and Rogers Student Center. When his dad asked him to thank everybody for his gifts, he was so excited that he could barely speak so his father had to speak for him.
“He’s been through a lot…,” Alan’s father Greg Devine said. “We’re just so glad that he’s here to play with these toys and see this wish granted and see people like [them] be so generous to him.”