When Tasha Bess found out her daughter, Rylee Bess, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at 4, the only thing she could do was to fall to her knees and pray.
“I felt very out of control,” said Tasha Bess, of Perry, Box Elder County, who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “I remember after getting down on my knees, the first scripture that came to me was ‘my peace I give unto you’ (John 14:27), and I knew everything was going to be OK. My faith has grown immeasurable amounts.”
She said she continued to receive “confirmation after confirmation” that her daughter was going to be safe and strong, despite the negative effects of the disease on Rylee’s body. Now, 10 years later, Make-A-Wish Utah and Macy’s have teamed up to brighten the 14-year-old’s Christmas season.
“It’s hard watching it as a parent," said Bart Bess, Rylee's father. "Seeing what she has to do every day makes me respect her so much and realize how much stronger she is than even we are.”
A couple of years ago, when Make-A-Wish reached out to the family to grant Rylee any wish she wanted, she "thought about it for a long time," according to her father. Eventually, she decided to incorporate her love of photography, and she chose to be flown to New York to be a model for a day.
Friday, in preparation for her trip, Macy’s at City Creek Center provided her with a photo shoot, complete with a makeup tutorial and a rack full of new clothes.
“I feel awesome,” Rylee said as she tried on a brand-new pair of boots. “It took me a while to decide what I wanted to do, but I’m really happy with what I chose.”
Last year, Make-A-Wish Utah granted 185 wishes, and it's aiming to hit 190 by the end of this year, according to Kelsey DiTommaso, the chapter’s marketing manager.
“Every time we work with a new family, it’s reaffirming that there is good in people and good in what we do, and the joy that the power of a wish can bring,” DiTommaso said. “This job has definitely been something that has helped me see my place in the world.”
Through Rylee’s visits to the hospital to receive treatments, she has been “mature way above her years” because she does everything she can to keep herself healthy, Bart Bess said.
“She’s really strong for what she has to deal with every day,” said her friend Taya Wilson. “It scares me (to watch her go through it) sometimes, but I always come and see her and support her through all that she does. We always play (games) in the hospital, and she always wins because she’s so good at them.”
Despite her challenges, Rylee won’t let cystic fibrosis define her. She said she hopes to one day finish school and graduate from college.
“I know that I’m blessed,” she said. “I’m still able to do all of this, so I’m really lucky.”
As Tasha Bess watched her daughter get her makeup done, she emphasized how wonderful her life is, with tears in her eyes.
“Needless to say, Heavenly Father has blessed her by keeping her body healthy and has blessed us by keeping us strong,” Tasha Bess said. “Not one day goes by that I don’t thank him for that. He has been there for me and he has been there for her.”
As part of the store’s nationwide “Believe” campaign, Macy’s will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish for every letter to Santa Claus received until Dec. 24.