February 16, 2011 Edition

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Hoxie Volunteer Fire Department's Sheila Mason (left) collects a donation for Make-A-Wish from John and Cathy Gonzales of Walnut Ridge on Friday.

Make-A-Wish funds
will grant two wishes

Sherri Sparks (left) and Paige VanBrook, both of the Lawrence County Office of Emergency Management and Lawrence County Communications Center, stop traffic as they collect Make-A-Wish donations in Walnut Ridge on Friday.
TD Photos ~ Gretchen Hunt
Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

The organizers of Hoxie and Walnut Ridge's Make-A-Wish fund-raiser were in tears when the donations were totaled, according to Philip Baiza, coordinator of the event. Two wishes will be granted to children with life-threatening illnesses, thanks to the money collected during the event.

"We raised over $10,200," Baiza said. "It was beyond our wildest dreams, it was just amazing."

This was the first official roadblock for Make-A-Wish in Walnut Ridge and Hoxie, although Baiza has collected donations for the fund-raiser on his own for the past two years.

Baiza and Candice Sparks Wilons of Little Rock, and a WRHS graduate worked together to organize volunteers and set up roadblocks in Walnut Ridge and Hoxie, and donations were collected from 7 a.m.-5 p.m. on Friday.

"We can't say enough about how great everyone was," Baiza said. "This shows what both towns can do when they come together."

In addition to the money collected at the roadblocks, Hoxie Elementary School children raised $700 selling Make-A-Wish stars. Hoxie Elementary teacher Lynn Guntharp organized their event.

"Walnut Ridge and Hoxie volunteers had a friendly rivalry going to see who could raise the most money," said Baiza. "Each team was keeping track of how much the other one had throughout the day and worked even harder near the end of the day to raise the most."

Regions Bank is the official Make-A-Wish Bank for this area, and the Walnut Ridge branch counted the money as it came in, making the information available very quickly.

At day's end, Walnut Ridge had collected $5,578, and Hoxie collected $4,622.

Volunteers assisted from the Walnut Ridge and Hoxie Police Departments, fire departments, both city councils along with AET Ambulance Service employees, Lawrence County Rotary Club members, students from Williams Baptist College and individual citizens.

"We want to thank everyone who donated time and money to make this such a success," Baiza said. "We also want to thank WHB Farms, BCM Farms, Pratts Auto Salvage and Anderson Auto Sales for their generous contributions.

"McDonald's and Pizza Hut donated food and drinks to our volunteers, and Hays donated water, all without being asked. We're grateful to them, and also want to thank Mayor Don House and Mayor Lanny Tinker for allowing us to set up the roadblocks, and to Regions Bank for all their work."

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