KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, 8-year-old Elaina Guerra chose to use her wish to help Kansas City charities.
Elaina was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 4 1/2 years old but was able to battle the disease and is now cancer-free.
She decided to use her wish to help others as a way to give back and pay it forward. Elaina says so many wonderful doctors, nurses, friends and family supported and loved her during her treatments.
“They supported us — gave us courage," Elaina said. "So I just kind of wanted to give back to those people cause they were just so sweet and kind. It makes me happy and joyful to see them caring and helping and make my wish come true."
Fifteen nonprofits across the Kansas City area are included in the wish, one of which is Sleep In Heavenly Peace — a nationwide organization that builds beds for kids without one.
Volunteers build about 1,000 beds a year, but on Saturday, 300 volunteers from three different chapters of the organization gathered at Kauffman Stadium to tackle Elaina’s challenge of 300 beds.
“She’s such an inspiration for so many that are here today,” said Scott Foster, president of Kansas City's southeast chapter of Sleep In Heavenly Peace. “We are very emotional about our program as it is and the kids we serve, and just to see a kid want to help other kids or even grown-ups, it just tugs in a different part of your heart.”
Foster says as a utility worker, he has seen first-hand what it is like for children without beds. He believes no child should ever find themselves on the floor.
“I’ve been inside the houses when the kids are sleeping on the floor or on dirty towels or clothes,” Foster said. “On Saturday morning, I’d be stepping over little bodies that are sleeping.”
Foster and his team have delivered 2,500 beds since 2018. Each is handmade from scratch and stored until it is matched with a child.
People can apply online to qualify, but there is already a 300-person waiting list. He says the beds built Saturday will go quickly.
Elaina and her mom, Susana Guerra, stopped by during the build to see her vision come to fruition.
“It’s humbling, for sure. So proud of her and the little heart that she has," Guerra said. "We just hope that what she wanted to do, which is to inspire others to reach out and do something that is selfless to others in need, I think just passing that forward."
Making sure kids have a safe and comfortable place to sleep is a cause dear to the hearts of each volunteer, but Ashley Pritchard says this event is extra special.
"I just love that she wanted her community to come together and serve,” Pritchard said. “It really impacts your heart, the way you view life.”