NEWELL - Danielle Phillips dipped her brush into a paint jar labeled "blue" but that looked more like lavender. As she applied the brushstrokes to her Fiesta plate, she did so knowing that, in time, the color would be transformed into a deep cobalt blue.
Similarly, a diagnosis that, a year ago, cruelly threatened to cut her young life short has become a source of hope for her and her family.
"I always say, 'There are people suffering worse than you.' There is a cure, and some people don't have a cure. I know I'm going to get better," said Danielle, 12, of New Cumberland.
Jana Tetrault (left) of Make-A-Wish Foundation of Northern West Virginia talks with Danielle Phillips at Saturday’s Paint-a-Plate event at the Homer Laughlin China Co. The plates painted by “Wish children” from Brooke and Hancock counties will be auctioned off at the “Wish Upon a Star Gala” at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort on Nov. 17. (Photo by Stephen Huba)
The Oak Glen Middle School seventh-grader is one of several "Wish children" from Brooke and Hancock counties who designed their own plates at the Homer Laughlin China Co. on Saturday to raise awareness and funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Northern West Virginia.
The plates will be auctioned off Nov. 17 at the foundation's "Wish Upon a Star Gala" at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort. The gala is an annual fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions.
Last year, the plate auction raised more than $1,800 for Make-A-Wish, said Jana Tetrault, of New Manchester, chairperson of the gala. "We have a whole table just for the children's plates," she said.
Plates designed by two children selected as Make-A-Wish ambassadors are sold at a live auction at the gala. "They help to raise money to provide wishes to children in Brooke and Hancock counties," Tetrault said.
Danielle, first diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in October 2011, is now well enough to have her wish fulfilled - to go to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., during her 2013 spring break.
"I've always wanted to go to Disney World," she said. "I'm looking forward to the roller coasters because I like roller coasters a lot."
A roller coaster ride is what Danielle's family has been on this past year, said her mother, Laura Phillips.
"Very overwhelming," Laura Phillips said. "It's really put things into perspective for us. ... I also realize how lucky we are because she has something that's curable."
ALL is a cancer of the white blood cells, resulting when malignant cells multiply and overproduce in the bone marrow. Danielle started having symptoms that prompted her parents to take her to a doctor for tests. "I was tired. I couldn't get my breath. I would bruise easily," Danielle said.
Since the diagnosis, Danielle has been on a regimen of chemotherapy treatments at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. The interminable treatments, recently reduced from weekly to monthly, will go on until February 2014, Laura Phillips said.
"She's been a trooper," her mother said. "She's got us through all of this. She's always looked on the bright side."
Phillips said her daughter was "beaming from ear to ear" when she learned she was going to Disney World.
The average cost of such a trip is $4,500, Tetrault said, which is where the fundraisers come in. In addition to the plate auction and gala ticket sales, Make-A-Wish raises money through the "Races for Wishes" event at Mountaineer Racetrack.
Last year's event raised enough money to send a girl to California to see actress and singer Selena Gomez. Results of this year's event, held on Saturday, have not yet been totaled, Tetrault said.
Wish children from Brooke and Hancock counties gathered at the winner's circle after Saturday's fourth race, named in honor of Make-A-Wish, for a ceremony with jockeys, trainers and owners.
"Hopefully, we'll raise as much as we did last year," Tetrault said.
Proceeds from "Races For Wishes" will be presented at the Nov. 17 gala. The holiday-themed event will be held at Mountaineer's Grande Ballroom. Tickets are $60 per person or $100 per couple and include wine tasting, dinner and entertainment by Vida the Singing Diva.
Ticket, donation or sponsorship information can be obtained by calling Tetrault at 304-224-3302. Sponsorship opportunities that include tickets are still available.