Local donation helps Macon teen’s acting dreams come true

WARNER ROBINS -- Macon native Khadijah Brown has wanted to be an actress since she was a child, but living with a congenital heart disease has placed obstacles in her path to achieving that dream.

“I just thought it was a fantasy like all children dream,” the now 18-year-old Brown said of her career aspirations.

But Make-A-Wish Georgia transformed her dream and those of two others into reality with a $27,000 donation from the Robins Federal Credit Union that was presented Monday at a Warner Robins branch.

For five days and four nights last year, Brown experienced Hollywood like a star and even appeared as an extra on the set of her favorite TV show, “Awkward.” The show, about a teenager navigating the strange social structure of high school, airs on MTV.

At the time her wish was granted, Brown said she watched the show every day.

Besides appearing as an extra on the show, Brown met the cast of “Awkward,” received a full hair and makeup treatment and tried on one of the main actresses’ wardrobe.

She said some things on set were not how they appeared on her TV screen, such as the stage and actors’ ages.

“Although they play a role that’s young, they’re much older, like in their late twenties,” Brown said.

As far as her dream of acting goes, Brown said the visit actually strengthened her goals.

“I finally got the feel of how it was going to be” as an actress, she said. “And I liked it.”

While in California, Brown and her family also stayed in a four-star hotel, rode around in a limousine and were given VIP tickets to Universal Studios Hollywood.

“That whole time she didn’t have to think about her illness at all,” said Jessica Brown, Khadijah’s mother.

In November 2013, Khadijah Brown’s cardiologist team at Sibley Heart Center Cardiology in Macon applied for her wish.

At the same time, she was undergoing tests to see if she needed a fifth heart surgery, her mother said.

Khadijah Brown said she doubted her wish would come true because the organization deals with so many people.

But when she received the news that her wish had been granted, she said she was excited and ready to leave.

“I kept asking when is it time to go,” she said.

Since the experience, she said she wants to help people more and experience more.

“You can do it,” she said she tells herself.

Robins Federal donated $27,000 to Make-A-Wish Georgia to fund three children’s wishes “because granting a wish for a child can have such a huge impact on that child’s life,” said Hillary Bobbitt, a representative for the credit union, in a statement.

In total, Robins Federal has given more than $200,000 to eight local or state organizations as part of their community outreach.

Amy Etheridge, a representative with Robins Federal, said the company always donates to nonprofit organizations throughout the year, but in 2014, they wanted to make a special, different sort of contribution.

They reached out to Make-A-Wish Georgia and said they wanted to help.

Karen Standridge, the senior director of major giving at Make-A-Wish Georgia, said donations from community partners like the credit union are how the wish-granting organization survives.

“The Robins Federal Credit Union is not only allowing us to grant wishes in their own backyard, but they also are bringing awareness” to Make-A-Wish, she said.

Standridge said the Georgia branch of the national foundation is celebrating its 20 year anniversary and has granted 7,000 wishes in that time.

And she said on average a wish costs $9,000.

Jessica Brown said she feels every bit is spent toward the wish and the family.

“(The wish) was an opportunity for Khadijah to look forward instead of looking back to what she’s been through,” she said.

In the time since her wish was granted, Khadijah Brown did not have to have a fifth heart surgery, has graduated from Howard High School, and said she hopes to attend college for either fashion or performing arts.

“Hopefully, one day Khadijah will be able to look back and say she was able to get her career started because of Make-A-Wish,” her mother said.