If you were one of the millions of people who tuned into the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Thursday morning, you may have noticed a familiar face among the shivering but enthusiastic crowd. Mary …
If you were one of the millions of people who tuned into the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Thursday morning, you may have noticed a familiar face among the shivering but enthusiastic crowd.
Mary Myers Clarke, a Spanish Fort Elementary School student, was surprised with an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City for the parade and a private dance class with The Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, courtesy of local organization Magic Moments.
The program awards children in Alabama who are experiencing a life-threatening or altering condition with a non-medical "magic moment" of their choice to provide joy during a difficult time.
Melissa Sprinkle, regional council, said Clarke was born with a rare congenital heart defect and received open heart surgery as an infant.
"She was not expected to make it, but she defied all of the odds," Sprinkle said. "She was recently named a National Youth Heart Ambassador for Kids Hear Challenge and American Heart Challenge by the American Heart Association."
Ashley Edwards, statewide coordinator, said Sprinkle worked with Spanish Fort Mayor Mike McMillan to coordinate the trip, which was revealed to Clarke at a surprise pep rally on Nov. 3.
"They worked on making their plans for at least two weeks, making it super unique to her," Edwards said. "Mary Myers' wish was to go to New York City around the holiday for the fun atmosphere and to see The Rockettes. The parade was also something that they [Clarke's family] had enjoyed watching on TV, and they were thrilled to be there in person for this once in a lifetime Magic Moments trip."
Edwards said the family was gifted the trip, which spanned five days and four nights, and it also included plans to visit the Museum of Ice Cream, the parade, tickets to The Rockettes' annual Christmas show and a surprise private dance class with The Rockettes themselves.
"We book the big things and then leave space open for the families so they are able to plan and schedule some extra activities," Edwards said. "We provide the spending money, that works for them."
Edwards said what makes the organization so special is the opportunity to stay involved with Magic Moments even after the trip ends.
"Magic Moments is an incredible organization because not only do we get to provide the child's wish, but they get to stay involved with us until they turn 19 through our Beyond the Moment program," Edwards said. "There are multiple events throughout the year that our recipients and their families get to come to and create special memories and friendships with other families who are going through similar situations."
Ashley Clarke, Mary Myers' mother and a teacher at SFES, said she was taken aback by the family's experience in the big apple.
"I can not explain the feelings about The Rockettes, it was just absolutely incredible. I am an emotional person, and I often tear up when I see Mary Myers experience life events, big and small," Clarke said. "I sat in that dance room weeping, seeing the joy on her face. The dancers were so kind, they showed us around and let her dance in the practice and tryout room, and we got to see the old costumes around the studio. It was magical."