Skipping and jumping with a beaming smile, Emerson May looked ready to take the Broadway stage. Onlookers could hardly tell her 5-year-old heart needs help not to miss a beat.
On Wednesday, Emerson hugged family and held hands with her best friend at a welcome-back party celebrating her return from New York City. She didn’t star on Broadway while in the Big Apple, but for Emerson, the party was a celebration of something bigger and better.
Through the Make-A-Wish foundation, Emerson fulfilled a dream to see Annie, the Broadway show starring a singing, orphan girl whose big heart helps her get her wish – a new family.
Emerson, of Evans, was born with hypoplastic left-heart syndrome, a rare congenital heart defect. Her left ventricle is severely underdeveloped so her right ventricle does most of the work.
She has had three surgeries, the first at 7 days old. Emerson visits a cardiology team at the Medical University of South Carolina every six months, and if she keeps improving, will eventually make visits once a year, said her mother, Erica May.
“Things have changed from years ago. There’s definitely more hope for these kids,” May said.
Emerson’s trip to New York City was the 6,000th wish granted by Make-A-Wish Georgia, a chapter founded in 1995. This year, 25 wishes will be fulfilled in the Augusta area and 425 across Georgia, said Make-A-Wish Georgia CEO John Brennan.
“(Six thousand wishes) makes me think of all the wish families that have had transformational experiences like Emerson at a time when the child and the family really need it the most,” Brennan said.
Emerson traveled with her mother; father, Donnie May; and cousin to New York the second week of July. They also saw The Lion King on Broadway, visited the Bronx Zoo and shopped at the American Girl doll store.
Her favorite part: going behind the scenes at Annie and meeting the dog that plays Sandy, Annie’s canine sidekick in the show.
Emerson’s condition doesn’t stop her from living an active childhood. She starts kindergarten at Augusta Christian in August and participates in gymnastics and dance.
To qualify for a wish, a child must be between the ages of 2½ and 18 and suffering from a life-threatening condition.
“It’s unfortunate we have 6,000 wishes,” Emerson’s mother said. “It’s a great organization, but I hate that there are so many kids that have to use this.”