SEARCY, Ark. (KTHV) — Harding University's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) partnered with Make-A-Wish Mid-South to make a little girl's dream of a fairy-themed treehouse come true.
The group raised more than $8,000 for Alissa Carter, an 11-year-old Searcy girl diagnosed with a critical illness.
On Feb. 25, a surprise reveal celebration was held in the Rhodes-Reaves Field House on the Harding campus. Alissa and her family entered the field house where hundreds gathered in support.
Alissa thought she was there to receive and award for a Bison coloring contest, the school's mascot.
“Little did she know that it was actually a reveal party, and that her wish had been granted,” said Robert Carter, Alissa’s father. “My daughter was happier than I’ve ever seen her. I would love to do it all again.”
Natural State Treehouses in Fayetteville is currently working on the blueprints for the treehouse. If weather permits, they plan to install it this week.
“When we went into the workshop, it was our goal to build something unique, something magical," said Josh Hart, owner of Natural State Treehouses. "Alissa’s treehouse will be right beside her house, but she will feel like she’s in her own magical world a million miles away.”
NCAA Division II has held a partnership with Make-A-Wish since 2003. So far, Division II schools have raised more than $5.3 million and granted more than 660 wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses.
Each school sets its own fundraising goals for Make-A-Wish.
“In previous years, we would raise money, send it in to the [Great American Conference] office and then check it off the list,” said Jack Thomas, president of Harding’s SAAC and Bison baseball player. “This year, however, we wanted to do something different."
Thomas said that one of his presidential initiatives was to "bring the effort closer to home" by granting a wish for a local child.
He says fulfilling these wishes also fulfills their duty as students athletes.
“As student-athletes we have a responsibility to take part in Harding's Community of Mission, and for us that means doing what we can to serve Searcy,” he said. “My number one hope is that we were able to create a lasting memory for Alissa and her family.”