The Make-A-Wish teen arrived in a limo with her parents and a friend. Her hair had been done and she wore a new dress for the occasion. But unlike many kids, her desire was to pay it forward and help another charity in Plattsburgh.
Alyssa Fenton of Lewis, New York is the picture of poise as she emerges from a limousine in front of SUNY Plattsburgh’s Sibley Hall. But the 16-year-old has spent her life dealing with Nephrotic syndrome, a kidney disease, and today she is fulfilling her Make-A-Wish dream.
Alyssa is donating her $8,000 in Make-A-Wish funds to the Third Age Adult Day Center where she volunteers and her mother works. She and her mom Jessica explained it took over a year for Alyssa to decide what she wanted to do as a Make-A-Wish teen. “I was struggling to come up with what I wanted for a wish and I was just talking to Mom about it and we were just thinking of things we could do and then I kind of just thought of it.”
Jessica Fenton: “We started out with I want to go on a trip and then she decided that’s not what she wanted. Then she decided she wanted a dog. And then she decided no that’s not what I want. So we took a few months off and finally she goes I know what I want and if I can’t have it there’s nothing else I want. So she told me that she would like to give back to the Third Age Adult Day Center.”
Alyssa was a bit overwhelmed by the attention but is glad she can help her friends. “I’ve gone to work with Mom a lot volunteering there and just helping around. It’s just a great place to be, positive energy, everybody’s always upbeat.”
Alyssa’s parents were beaming with pride and mom Jessica Fenton says she wasn’t completely surprised that her daughter’s wish is to pay it forward. “I think it’s just amazing. I’ve always taught these guys to always give back to others. And on and off throughout the years they’ve done many different things for other people. So I wasn’t totally surprised that she wanted to give back to somebody. I was a little but not totally.”
Each year Make-A-Wish Northeast New York grants wishes to between 85 and 100 children and teens. About 1 in 100 choose to give back. Clinton-Franklin-Essex Counties Lead Wish Grantor Patricia MacMannis has been working with the organization for 27 years. She says pay-it-forward wishes are very rare but she isn’t surprised that it’s Alyssa Fenton’s choice because it reflects her passions. “She’s very observant and she has a huge heart. And I think she sees a lot of herself in some of these participants in the program. I think she sees people that need to ask for help sometimes and sometimes are vulnerable and I think she is someone who has had their own challenges with their health, recognized that in them and it’s a chance for her to give back.”
The Third Age Adult Day Center is a program for elderly individuals with developmental disabilities and memory impairment. Program Manager Christine Ouellette says the money Fenton is giving through Make-A-Wish will allow for the construction of a safe inner courtyard and patio area. "I think it gives us hope for our future that we do have some young people that do care. You know we just think of young people as being so me, me, me, me. So when you see someone like Alyssa it’s like Wow! You know she’d bring us flowers when she was sick and times when they didn’t know if this girl was going to live. She just thinks way older than her chronological age. And I don’t know if that’s because she’s had scares, had health scares.”
Additional donations to the courtyard project can be made through the Plattsburgh College Foundation.