At Mount Airy High School’s graduation ceremony this summer, a special applause rang out through the crowd in appreciation of one young woman’s challenge.
Taylor McMillian earned her high school degree while battling cancer. By July, her disease had gone into remission.
Thankful for her recovery, McMillian wanted to give back to those still fighting the deadly disease.
On Tuesday, she visited Tharrington Primary School to receive a donation from the students that will help send 7-year-old girl to Florida to see Walt Disney World.
McMillian, who is now taking classes at Surry Community College, said she developed a special bond with a little girl she met at treatments.
Harley Tucker, from West Virginia, was on the same schedule as Taylor, so the two met frequently and struck up a friendship.
“She became like a little sister to me,” said McMillian.
Harley has always wanted to visit Walt Disney World, so McMillian decided to work on making that dream a reality in coordination with the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
McMillian already is familiar with the organization as she has worked with them to make her own dream come true next year.
“I was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkins Lymphoma Dec. 12,” said McMillian. She has always wanted to visit the Dominican Republic and says that thanks to a fund-raising effort by a group of local volunteers called Taylor’s Dream Team, she will be going to Punta Cana in the summer.
“Some days I wake up sick or tired, but at the end of the day I remember that trip of a lifetime is coming my way,” said McMillian. “It gives kids like me something to look forward to.”
For Harley’s wish, McMillian has raised more than $4,000, much of it through $10 and $20 donations from community members.
“Harley just had her last treatment on Monday,” she said. If the disease is cured or goes into remission, then Harley will have a few months to get her strength back before going to Florida in June.
At Tharrington, second-grader Abigail Beitel said the Future Leaders Academy (FLA) raised $100 for Harley.
“We like to help and be leaders because that’s what leaders do,” said Beitel.
FLA has 38 members that meet after school four days a week. The young students sold raffle tickets for three prizes: a $100 prize, a gas gift card and Sabika jewelry.
If the students sold at least 100 tickets, the FLA agreed to complete its own Walk For Wishes.
On Nov. 14 at Tanglewood Park in Winston-Salem, volunteers involved in several wish fund-raisers took part in a 5k walk (3.1 miles).
According to event coordinators, the Tanglewood event raised $122,000, with McMillian as the third-highest individual with more than $1,900 raised and Taylor’s Dream Team coming in sixth among groups with $4,162.
The Tharrington students couldn’t be there for that event, but they have pledged to do the 5k on their own.
The FLA has finished two miles already and has the 1.1 miles left to walk, said a proud Beitel.
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