How do you define commitment?
One definition would be Jerri Watt, who has been involved with the Make-A-Wish Foundation
Southwest Region for 20 years, one of the first supporters and advocates of Make-A-Wish in Fort Worth.
Along the way she has served as a regional council member and chair, a golf tournament chair and has helped to create various fundraising events over the years. She continuously helps engage new supporters for the organization and identifies closely with the mission.
She and her husband, W. R. “Bob” Watt, will serve as the Honorary Chairs for the upcoming Wranglers & Wishes event on Nov. 18. The new signature event will take place to continue the work of the Watt’s and many others in Fort Worth.
Wranglers & Wishes, the brainchild of Jerri, will be held at the River Ranch Stockyards from 5:30-10 p.m. It will benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation Southwest Region.
The goal for Wranglers & Wishes is to raise more than $300,000 to continue bringing hope, strength and joy to eligible children in North Texas. The evening will feature live music from one of Fort Worth’s own, Dan Roberts – Old Boots Music, as well as delicious Texas barbecue and one or two inspiring wish stories.
“I suggested to the council that we have a “hoedown” as a fundraiser, a time to wear some cowboy boots, hats and jeans and just have a party – good food, good music by Dan Roberts, dancing and being with others,” Jerri said. “We will have the best and funniest auctioneer in the business (Jeff Copeland) with his heads and tails event, and we are going to throw in a little karaoke for some laughs. It will be a fun time.
Thus, Wranglers & Wishes was born.
But the Watt’s and Make-A-Wish have a history together that long precedes this event and likely more that are ahead in years to come.
Bob recalled the time Make-A-Wish first captured his heart.
“About 20 years ago Jerri and I were invited to attend a North Texas Chapter Wish Night Gala at the Anatole in Dallas, where we met Shirley and James Wood of Decatur and others who were interested in establishing a Make-A-Wish office in Fort Worth/Tarrant County,” he remembered.
As a result, there were two parties atop the Reata Restaurant to introduce Make-A-Wish to the business community. This began the establishment of the Southwest Region. (There are six regions within the chapter of Make-A-Wish, which chapter headquarters are in Dallas.)
As Jerri likewise was touched by Make-A-Wish, Bob started helping her meet people, and they went to wishes being granted, supporting Make-A-Wish in any way they could. “Not because of Jerri so much, but for the satisfaction of seeing a sick child have a wish come true. It’s a great organization,” Bob said.
And along came Kaitlyn Gallegos. Jerri was introduced to Kaitlyn, who was about to head to Las Vegas as her wish to attend the Academy of Country Music Awards was on the verge of being granted. When Jerri was introduced to Kaitlyn, the 10-year-old stole her heart and Jerri knew then she wanted to be involved in the organization.
“At the second party, I was asked to go to a wish granting get-together, and I was very reluctant but felt I should attend – having no intention of becoming involved – until I met a young girl in a pink cowgirl hat and boots named Kaitlyn. The rest is history,” Jerri said.
In Kaitlyn’s young life she had already had seven recurring tumors surgically removed from her brain stem.
“I decided than that maybe I had the time to be involved.”
Jerri reflected on the grandiose treatment Kaitlyn was given from everyone involved with the ACM Awards, including one particularly special moment that brought tears to everyone’s eyes. When Vince Gill received the Humanitarian of the Year Award, he called Kaitlyn up on stage and gave it to her, calling her “someone he admired for their gentle, yet courageous spirit.”
Bob recalled one of the most memorable wishes he saw granted. It involved the Doyle family who live in Minnesota and are in the ranching and farming business.
“Their son was a wish child, and his wish was to attend the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. With help from Make-A-Wish volunteers in Minnesota coordinating with Fort Worth Make-a-Wish volunteers, he and his family were able to attend the rodeo, saw all the sights, and he was asked by Brad Barnes (president/general manager of the Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show) to help him crown the grand champion steer in the arena, the highlight of his wish,” Bob said. “The family had a few wonderful days and great memories in Fort Worth, and we still hear from the family now and then.”
Jerri said before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the region had granted 221 wishes in 2019, an all-time high. Since COVID, she said they have been able to grant wishes locally and have kept all other wishes in the pipeline until such time that travel can be resumed. Most wish requests are to attend Disney World.
Thankfully, most wishes have good endings. And it is amazing what a wish can do for a child. It gives the child something to dream about and can actually help the child get better.
“I would like to thank Cook Children’s Medical Center, our community physicians, as well as all the volunteers who support Make-A-Wish by making wishes come true. But mostly, I want to thank all the outstanding and caring members of our Make-A-Wish Council – what a fabulous group! Without the council – now ably lead by Christina Rodgers – we could not have accomplished what we did – and will do!” said Jerri.
“This has been a great trip!”
Wranglers & Wishes