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Corinth Teenager Holds Fundraiser To Show Gratitude to Make-a-Wish

12980531_981703165199372_967666472_nBryce Bearden has had more surgeries than half the years he’s lived.

The 16-year-old was born on St. Patrick’s Day with Noonan syndrome among other heart defects. To date, he’s had nine heart surgeries. He has a bleeding disorder. And now, he’s in heart failure.

“I’ve been through it my whole life,” Bryce said. “I knew it was going to get harder as I got older, that I was going to have to have more surgeries.”

But something else has been on his mind lately. Last year, Make-A-Wish Foundation flew Bryce and his family to Hawaii for a week’s vacation, and now all the Corinth, Mississippi, native wants to do is give back.

In early June, the first annual Bryce’s Wish Warriors’ Ride for Wishes will raise awareness and money for the foundation that gave Bryce and his family a much-needed break.

“It was a blessing for us to go,” said Sara Langston, Bryce’s mother. “We were all so stressed out at that point. We were having to go to doctors’ appointments every week, and it was so nice to be able to get away and not have to worry about anything. Nothing financial — Make-A-Wish paid for everything. I mean, they even give you spending money.”

And aside from enjoying the beaches and riding around in a navy blue convertible Camaro that the rental car company let him pick, Bryce said going to Hawaii was special because it’s a place he may never get to return to.

12987982_981702608532761_1848930723_n “It made me want to help other people,” Bryce said.

And that’s how Ride for Wishes was born.

“After their wish experience, Bryce’s mom reached out to me about putting on a fundraiser to give back to Make-A-Wish,” said Gray Byrd, the Tennessee and Mississippi development coordinator for Make-A-Wish.

The fundraiser will be held June 4, 2016, in Corinth at the American Legion Post 6 building and will include entertainment, a motorcycle and helicopter ride, a bake sale, children’s activities, barbecue and more.

“We’re hoping to make it really big,” Sara said. “I just want everyone to come out and support Make-A-Wish. I think a lot of people thought initially it was a benefit for Bryce, but it’s not. One hundred percent of the proceeds are going to Make-A-Wish. We’re looking for anyone who wants to donate any item to the silent auction — any corporate sponsors, anything like that who’d like to give in honor of Bryce.”

Bryce, who designed the event’s t-shirts himself, said his goal is to raise between five and 10 thousand dollars for Make-A-Wish. Sara has other motives.

“A lot of people in this area are not very familiar with Make-A-Wish,” she said. “I guess there’s always just been that kind of stigma with Make-A-Wish that it’s for a dying child. And it’s not really for a dying child; it’s for a child with a life-threatening condition. And there are tons of children from the north Mississippi and west Tennessee area that could benefit from Make-A-Wish.”

12980485_981702241866131_1243535572_nByrd said Make-A-Wish survives in part because of “former wish kids” like Bryce.

“It is definitely a testimony to the experience that Bryce had with his own wish, and it shows that we really are accomplishing our goal to put some sort of normalcy back into these wish kids’ lives through their wish experiences,” Byrd said.

And just like any normal high schooler, Bryce has his eyes set on graduation.

“I’m going to try Ole Miss,” he said.

But in the meantime, when things get tough, Bryce thinks of how he wants to always be there for his little brother, Clay.

“He’s a very giving person,” Sara said. “He’s always thinking about someone else. He tries not to let his conditions stop him. We’ve had some pretty major setbacks in the past year-and-a-half, but he just amazes me.”

And in that generous fashion, Bryce tells anyone willing to donate to Make-A-Wish at his event “and help other people so they can experience or go somewhere that they might never get to go again.”

For more information about Make-A-Wish or how to get involved, please reach out to Gray Byrd at gbyrd@midsouth.wish.org.

Visit Bryce’s Facebook Event Page for Rides for Wishes here.

Anna McCollum is a senior print journalism major at The Meek School of Journalism and New Media. She can be reached at aemccoll@go.olemiss.edu.

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