Sandy Naramore, who was the College of Education’s Outstanding Alumnus this past spring, leads Birmingham’s Magic Moments, an organization that provides “happiness to children throughout the state of Alabama who are diagnosed with chronic, life-threatening illnesses.”
At the recent Auburn-LSU football game in Jordan-Hare Stadium, Naramore and her team presented a “magic moment” to seven-year-old Rio Mahaffey, who for the past two years has been battling Langerhans cell histiocytosis, a rare form of cancer. Rio had developed a close friendship with former Auburn punter Kevin Phillips, who announced Rio’s moment on the Jumbotron before the game: a trip to Disney World for Rio, his mother, and his sister. Phillips said his relationship with Rio represented “a divine appointment.”
These are the moments Naramore lives for.
“Rio is an avid Auburn fan,” she said. “Everything in his closet is orange and blue. Although his wish was to go to Disney World, he wanted something connected to Auburn. He really got that at the LSU game! He was a part of Tiger Walk, and then he got to go down on the field before the game. He thought after that it was all over, but then he and his sister looked up and saw their friend Kevin on the Jumbotron announcing that Rio would also be going to Disney World! I’m guessing that was a real magic moment for that sweet little boy.”
Naramore, a 1978 College of Education graduate, spent 28 years in several different Alabama schools as a special education teacher and administrator before starting a new career as the director of Mitchell’s Place, a center for children on the autism spectrum. After nearly a decade there, she took over directorship of Magic Moments two years ago.
“I believe that change is a positive thing so I have enjoyed having many different opportunities during my career,” she said. “I love serving children and feel fortunate to have had so many different ways to do so.”
Naramore explained that Magic Moments is more than just a traditional wish-granting organization in two ways.
“First, we are strictly in Alabama,” she said. “We have granted over 4,700 of these magic moments in each of Alabama’s 67 counties. But we also do something called ‘Beyond the Moment.’ Every child that we reach stays in our system until he or she is 19 years old. We have an annual three-day family camp at Children’s Harbor at no expense to the families. So these families have developed powerful, important, and sustaining relationships. The annual weekend keeps those bonds strong.”
In addition to these retreats, Magic Moments also has many other activities. They attend minor league baseball games in Montgomery, Mobile, and Birmingham. They have movie nights and Santa Claus parties, the latter of which is a particular favorite of the younger children. The organization is also the focus of several annual golf tournaments that support their work.
“We have been around for 34 years, but still people don’t know much about us,” Naramore explained. “We are a 501©3 organization, and we get our funds through grant writing and straight out donations. Our largest fundraiser is an annual marathon in Birmingham that we put on in conjunction with Childrens Hospital. Our 2019 event will be April 14.”
Clearly, Naramore understands the importance of the organization’s work.
“Our mission is to grant non-medical moments to children ages 4-18 with chronic life-threatening illnesses in the state of Alabama as well as continue a relationship Beyond the Moment,” she said. “It’s a lot of hard work by a lot of dedicated souls, but seeing Rio have his magic moment in front of 85,000 fans, well … that just makes it all worthwhile.”
To learn more, visit www.magicmoments.org.