KEARNEY — At Emma Heacock’s carnival-themed birthday party, she and her friends played homemade games and bounced on inflatables.

Although the party may have appeared to be a typical child’s birthday celebration, the party was anything but.

Guests didn’t arrive carrying gift bags stuffed with tissue paper or boxes covered in wrapping. Partygoers arrived with donations, which Emma gave to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“I’ve been blessed, and I want to bless others,” she said.

The idea of asking her friends to give the gift of a donation was sparked by her mom, Christie, and her volunteer work as a wish granter for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“Emma would ask a lot of questions about what we were doing,” Christie said.

As a wish granter, volunteers interview the child and family about their wish. The Make-A-Wish Foundation helps with the arrangements for the wish, then the wish granter celebrates the wish with the family.

“I believe strongly in their mission,” Christie said. “I love getting the opportunity to see firsthand how it does make such a difference to those kids.”

Emma asked friends to bring donations to her 5th and 6th birthday parties.

“Her 5th birthday was really her first friend birthday party. We started talking about, ‘Do we really need gifts like a typical party or could we do something for someone else?’” Christie said. “She wanted to do something for someone else. This year, she brought it up, and we started talking about it and she wanted to do that same thing again.”

So far, Emma has raised about $500 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“For a little girl to be so generous with her birthday gift funds is absolutely amazing,” said Hannah Stone, vice president of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Nebraska.

“I asked Emma if she could feel her heart growing in her chest. I told her I was sure her heart was the size of the moon. I don’t know anyone who is more generous than she is. I’m so very proud of her. I hope that she spurs those that are even more fortunate to help in their philanthropic giving.”

The Make-A-Wish Foundation grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope and joy, Stone said.

Emma’s gift will help provide funding for wish children from the Kearney area. The Make-A-Wish Foundation is working with 32 wish children in the Kearney area.

“My goal is to make a whole wish,” Emma said.

Emma hopes to continue the tradition of asking her birthday party guests to donate to Make-A-Wish.

“She’s setting a good example for her siblings,” Christie said. “Her sister would like to do it next year when she has a friend party.”

Emma’s father is Tom, and she is the older sister to Sophia, 4, and Brady, 1.

To donate to or volunteer at the Make-A-Wish Foundation, contact Stone at 234-6612 or email hstone@nebraska.wish.org.

email to: