Today we are sharing an interview with Missy Phipps, one of the founders of Ally’s Wish, a nonprofit started here in Dallas that grants wishes to moms from across the country who are facing terminal illness. From published books to family vacations, Missy and her team are working to create memories that will last for some very special families.
Tell us a little bit about your journey and the moment you decided to start Ally’s Wish.
It was 2014, my kids and I were attending First Baptist Church in Lewisville. There was a woman that attended there named Allyson Hendricks, who I knew had three young boys and was in remission for ovarian cancer. Allyson came to speak to a Moms group that I was a part of and shared her cancer journey and revealed that her cancer had returned and was Stage 4, which is terminal. Though I didn’t know Allyson very well, I felt drawn to do more than just take her family dinner or other things that were being done by friends and family. A group of friends and I would constantly talk about her situation and try and figure out things we could do for her. One day, I was driving home from taking my kids to school and God laid the idea of granting wishes to sick moms, with Allyson being the first one, on my heart. I messaged my friends that I had an idea and asked them to come to my house that night to talk about it. So they did, and on my living room floor the four of us; Melissa Cary, Holly Reed, Heather Bryan and I brainstormed and dreamed, and Ally’s Wish was born.
How have you seen Ally’s Story reflected in other moms and their families?
Allyson’s story is seen in pretty much every mom who receives a granted wish. They are all young Moms with young children. They have been fighting for their lives for, typically, several years. Their lives, and their kids’ lives, revolve around doctors, hospitals, treatments, sadness, and pain. These moms also carry guilt with the thought of leaving their children behind. In a sense, the mom feels like these “wishes” are their last gift to their children. Instead of only leaving memories of the illness, we give them the ability to leave memories of joy. When we gave Allyson her wish, which was to have her 8-year old blog published for her family, it was a sweet time. We had copies made for her whole family. Memories for them in those pages that will last a lifetime. And we see the same joy in the moms as their wishes are granted also.
What are some of the most impactful “wishes” that Ally’s Wish has been a part of granting.
All of the wishes we have granted have been special in their own way. However, there are a few that stand out for me. One, of course, being Allyson’s. Not only did we have her entire blog published to give to her family, but we had it sent to an editor and had it published as a book that we now sell called The Three Little Cowboys. Of all the purchases, 75% goes to a fund for Allyson’s boys with the remainder donated to Ally’s Wish. I’m thankful for the legacy she left and that others will be able to read about her journey of faith and courage.
Another wish that stands out was Terran Spencer. Her wish was to swim with dolphins, so we sent her and her family to Hawaii. We have amazing pictures of her kissing one of the dolphins!
We also had the privilege of granting a Christmas wish. A mom named Melissa knew that she would probably not make it until Christmas, so she asked if we could provide one last holiday for her to share with her two teenage children. So we did! We went shopping and got them everything on their lists and more. We catered a Mexican dinner for the whole family, had a snow machine to provide snow for their backyard and had carolers come from the local church. It was such a sweet time to spend with the family. Melissa lost her life to cancer less than two weeks later.
How has walking through seasons of loss affected your perspective on life and helping others?
Unfortunately I began dealing with loss at a young age when I lost my 11-year-old sister in a car accident. I believe it was a huge factor in shaping who I am today and allowing me to not take life for granted. Now that I am a mom, while my perspective is different in that I can’t imagine knowing I will have to leave my children at young ages, I still try not to take one moment for granted and I believe I am teaching them the same.
When the idea of Ally’s Wish came to my mind, my question was, “What would I want if I was given a terminal diagnosis and had young children?” And the answer above and beyond any other was to make memories with my kids that they could remember forever. So to help these precious moms make sweet memories with their kids, that don’t involve their illness, is an absolute honor and privilege and I am overwhelmed that God would allow me to be a part of this organization.
When you were a young child, did you see giving and philanthropy modeled for you? What sparked the idea to help others?
I had a rough childhood, and we didn’t have a lot of money. So while I saw kindness in my parents, I don’t recall them volunteering a whole lot. My dad would pick up the occasional hitchhiker and my mom was always a good friend to those in need. Those are the things I remember. I have always loved the idea of helping those in need and have volunteered at shelters and in different ways through the years. Maybe because I had some tough times as a kid, I could sympathize with those that are hurting. Ally’s Wish has been such a blessing and while it is heartbreaking to hear these moms stories, it is such a joy to see their happiness when their wish is granted.
What was it like to start helping moms beyond North Texas?
To be honest, when we started Ally’s Wish, we weren’t really sure what to expect. But slowly moms started learning about us and we began to grant wishes. We shed a lot of tears speaking with them and learning their stories and wishes. We really can’t believe we get to do this for these moms. It truly is such a blessing—to hear their excitement when we call them the first time, or to see the pictures from their trips—it’s so overwhelming.
Do you have any big dreams for Ally’s Wish and how you can expand your reach?
Our dream is to grant as many wishes as possible. We are close to granting 110 wishes after 5 years and we hope to triple that in the next 5 years. We currently have a $5,000 cap on each wish, but we would love for that cap to increase so we can provide bigger wishes.
Ally’s Wish is becoming known nationwide. As a matter of fact, most of the wishes we’ve granted are from out of state. We don’t currently grant trips out of the country but hope to be able to one day.
What is one of your favorite spots in the Dallas area where you can recharge?
Well, I have four kids so during the summer, anywhere with water is always a treat! I do love going to the Little Elm beach on Lake Lewisville. It’s a really nice area with sand volleyball, a large beach area, a park area, and on some weekends they have concessions. We take a picnic and go enjoy the day relaxing.
How can people get involved with the work that you are doing?
People can go to allyswish.org and sign up for volunteer opportunities. We do two big events a year: the Boots and Blessings Gala in April and our Lakeside 5K/Relay and Family Fun run which will be held on November 9 this year. We always needing volunteers for those!
If you know someone who is Doing Good in Dallas, we’d love to hear about it! Share their story with us.
Story by Mary Martin. Photos courtesy of Missy Phipps.