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Wish Week 2021: Cherokee Trail unites to support one of its own

For the 10th year of Cherokee Trail High School’s Wish Week celebration, the entire school community came together to support one of their own.

Delaney, Cherokee Trail's 2021 "Wish Kid." A year marked by singular challenges didn’t stop high schools across the Cherry Creek School District from continuing a selfless tradition, and Cherokee Trail was no exception. Once again, the school partnered with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to raise money to help realize the dream of a “Wish Kid,” a member of the community who’d faced extraordinary health challenges.

Of course, this year’s Wish Week push at CT looked completely different from past efforts in more ways than one. For example, in lieu of school-wide assemblies held in the gym and tightly packed dances and student get-togethers, this year’s fundraising took place during safely and socially distanced events. Students, faculty and administrators dressed up in costumes for themed days at the school; they took part in relay races and outdoor parade events that helped get the word out about the effort.

But the school’s tenth annual Wish Week also differed from past years in a deeply personal way, one that put the spotlight on a member of the Cherokee Trail family. In past years, the school’s “Wish Kids” have often been younger, elementary or middle school students who’ve faced considerable health issues.

This year, the “Wish Kid” wasn’t quite a kid. Senior Delaney McGowan, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma when she was a sophomore at the school, was the focus of Cherokee Trail’s coordinated, widespread push for kindness. In order to help realize McGowan’s dream of taking a beach vacation with her family, the entire community mobilized. They successfully abided by the safety restrictions of the COVID era to pull off a one-of-a-kind Wish Week for the ages.

“Even though this year’s Wish Week looked different than in years past, it is extra special for us because our Wish Kid is a part of our own CT family,” said Kate Nam, CT’s senior class president. “Cherokee Trail has once again shown that we are better together.”

Nam made that observation before the official fundraising reveal at the end of the two-week push, an event that in past years has taken place in a packed gym, in front of hundreds of students, teachers, administrators and community well-wishers. This year, the rite was completely virtual – students unveiled the final check to a remote audience, and Delaney McGowan looked on via a computer with her peers from a socially distanced classroom.

That setup didn’t dim the impressive impact of the final numbers. Over two weeks, the CT community raised over $25,000 for McGowan’s dream beach vacation. That total represented contributions from individuals, from student groups and even from other contributors across CCSD.

For McGowan, it was the cap of a two weeks that she will remember forever. The funds will allow her to take sorely needed time off with her family after a stretch of years marked by challenges. More importantly, the fundraising effort itself has offered her a new sense of support, solidarity and commitment from a community that’s come to mean so much.

“(Cancer) was the single hardest thing that I’ve ever had to endure. Cancer has a way of teaching you so much about yourself, about life,” McGowan noted. “But having the love of others has really lifted me up … I just want to say thank you so much for these past two weeks. I am so grateful and thankful for everything that’s happened.”

Posted 3/29/21 at 2 PM