Wish comes true for sick student

By Greg Gelpi

Children just want to be happy.

Amidst the pain of monthly blood transfusions and time in the intensive care unit, 6-year-old Jaila Bryant found her happiness by meeting the star of her favorite television show "That's So Raven."

The Make-A-Wish Foundation flew Bryant, a Smith Elementary School first-grader, to Los Angeles to meet Raven-Symone.

Shyly smiling brightly, Bryant called Raven her "best friend," and her mother, Veneschia Bryant said her room is full of books, posters and other items from the Disney Channel television show and about her favorite actress.

"It's draining for her at times, but she's so tough," her mother, a teacher at Smith, said. "It's like she's made of steel. She's been through so much."

Coping with sickle cell anemia is a "struggle" at times, Veneschia Bryant said, but then at other times she is squirmy and bouncy like a child should be.

"We are encouraged by her energy," she said, adding that she has seen Jaila at her worst, so it helped seeing her experiencing her wish come true.

While in Los Angeles, her first trip to California, she also watched a taping of "That's So Raven," toured Studio 10 where the show is produced and visited Universal Studios.

Jaila described riding the Jurassic Park ride at Universal Studios, where a life-size robotic T-Rex lunged toward park visitors.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Georgia and Alabama will compete its 400th wish by the end of the year and will enter its 10th year in 2005, spokeswoman Katherine Christenson said

The nonprofit organization grants wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses, including making one child a princess for a day, while sending another to basic training to become G.I. Joe, she said.

"The main goal is to give children a chance to be children again," Christenson said. "It's a chance to get them to laugh and not think about their medical conditions."

According to the American Sickle Cell Anemia Association, the illness is a blood disorder that causes chronic anemia and periods of pain. There are about 72,000 Americans with sickle cell anemia, and about two million Americans carry the sickle cell anemia trait.