Keep­ing the wish alive

The Compass - - SPORTS -

Gary Sparkes has a soft spot in his heart for the Chil­dren’s Wish Foun­da­tion be­cause it helped bring some much-needed smiles and hap­pi­ness to his ail­ing twin grand-daugh­ters be­fore they passed away.

That’s why he and oth­ers went through such great lengths this past sum­mer to en­sure the foun­da­tion can per­form sim­i­lar acts of kind­ness for other chil­dren be­tween the ages of three and 17 with life-threat­en­ing ill­ness.

The Sparkes’ staged a char­ity golf tour­na­ment in White­way, Trin­ity Bay this sum­mer in me­mory of Becky and An­drea Sparkes, and raised just over $18,000 for the foun­da­tion. That’s enough to grant two wishes.

“ We thought in their mem­o­ries we would re­cip­ro­cate and see how much we could raise for the foun­da­tion,” said Gary.

So they col­lected some pledge sheets from the foun­da­tion and handed them out to about 25 or 30 fam­ily and friends. When the Aug. 21 golf tour­na­ment was over, they tal­lied up $17,516.15. In the days af­ter the tour­na­ment, an­other $500 in pledges came in.

Pledges came from as far away as Hal­i­fax and Al­berta, and the Sparkes’ fam­ily cov­ered all the ex­penses.

“It was suc­cess­ful be­yond our ex­pec­ta­tions,” Gary said.

The iden­ti­cal twin girls, who were born Aug. 24, 2001 to par­ents Gary and An­nette Sparkes of Shearstown, were di­ag­nosed with Bat­ten dis­ease in 2005. Bat­ten dis­ease is a rare, fa­tal au­to­so­mal re­ces­sive neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­or­der that be­gins in child­hood.

Becky passed away on Jan. 18, 2008, while An­drea died on Dec. 3, 2008.

The Chil­dren’s Wish Foun­da­tion granted each of them a spe­cial wish be­fore they died. They trav­elled to Dis­ney World in 2005, and the foun­da­tion pur­chased a home en­ter­tain­ment sys­tem for the girls in 2006. The two wishes were val­ued at roughly $18,000.

The ges­ture left an in­deli­ble mark on Gary and other mem­bers of his fam­ily.

The foun­da­tion is a na­tional non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that grants an av­er­age of 900 wishes each year in Canada. It is able to do this thanks to the gen­er­ous sup­port of the pub­lic, cor­po­rate spon­sors, planned gifts, do­nated goods and ser­vices and funds raised through spe­cial events.

Gary felt he could do his part to re­pay the foun­da­tion, and plans to make the char­ity golf tour­na­ment an an­nual event.

“ We started this event sev­eral years ago cel­e­brate my great-grand­fa­ther Robert Ge­orge’s 90th birth­day,” Gary ex­plained. “ When Becky and An­drea died, we de­cided to turn it into a me­mo­rial to them.”

It’s now called the Becky and An­drea Fun Fest, and Gary Sparkes couldn’t be more pleased with the re­sults.

“Our wish is to keep it go­ing and grant as many wishes as we can,” Gary stated last week.

Leah Sparkes, the older sis­ter of Becky and An­drea Sparkes, pre­sented a cheque re­cently to the New­found­land and Labrador chap­ter of the Chil­dren’s Wish Founa­tion. Tak­ing part in the pre­sen­ta­tion were, from left, foun­da­tion co-or­di­na­tor Va­lerie Geary, Leah, foun­da­tion fund-rais­ing co-or­di­na­tor Chris­tine Mor­gan, and ad­min­is­tra­tive as­sis­tant Christina Kear­ney.

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