debbie_peaches_web.jpgMIAMI BEACH — If you had just one wish, what would that wish be?  Understanding the hope, strength and joy of a simple wish, the Make-A-Wish Foundation has been asking  this question and granting  wishes to children with "life-threatening medical conditions for decades.

Most of the dreams the charitable organization fulfills may be deemed whimsical: meeting celebrities and athletes, trips, laptops and shopping sprees. But what the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Florida gave Debbie Jacques was more than just a wish; it was a new lease on life.

“Beyond the wish we try to enrich the whole human experience,” said Brett Rose of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Florida. “Look around and see how the entire community has come together to provide something so extravagant for a little girl’s wish.  It’s not a hard ask and when you really do, you can change a child’s life.”

Jacques, affectionately called Peaches, suffers from sickle cell anemia, a life-threatening disease that causes anemia and other major complications such as severe pain in the arms, legs chest or abdomen, serious infections, stroke and damage to body organs including the spleen, kidney and liver.

“When I got pregnant with Peaches it was scary,” said her mother, Anise Cherisme. “I thought about terminating the baby. I cried and I was depressed for a while. I kept thinking about the bad things the doctor said, the pain, blood transfusion and that she won’t be like a normal child. It was very depressing as a parent, but my daughter was born a superstar.”

Throughout the bouts of pain and frequent hospital stays, the 13-year-old student of New Renaissance Middle School in Miramar often experimented with her mother’s clothes, shoes and make-up, fantasizing of one day being a super model.

And when Make-A-Wish asked, seemingly the entire Miami community sprung into action. MOMM Organization co-founders Stephan Morris, a Miami nightlife impresario, and Jonathan Babicka, owner of Primp Hair Salon, Michal Ignition of Pics Boutique and make-up artist Dunia Rivero collaborated for hair, make-up and photographs.

What resulted was more than the glamour girl had expected: a photo shoot that landed her a spread in Ocean Drive magazine, a catwalk strut during FUNKSHION Fashion Show in South Beach and a media frenzy befitting the Kardashians.

“It’s weird that all of these people want to talk to me and want to take pictures of me,” Jacques said. “But I want to thank the Make-A-Wish Foundation and everyone for making this dream come through for me.”

Every year, FUNKSHION provides a platform for designers to showcase their collections to the media, celebrities and buyers, as well as showcase charitable organizations. On Fri., July 15, the presentation shone the light on Eva Danielle Wittels’ contribution to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Over 300 patrons from all over the world packed the tent to cheer on the aspiring model who seemed quite natural alongside the professionals. Wearing colorful, flowing, flaunty, silk creations custom-designed by Bay Harbor Shops fashionista Eva Danielle — made famous by Paris Hilton and Brittany Spears — Jacques gained more confidence with each step.

“She came in and tried on a lot of different pieces,’’ said Eva Danielle. “For me, it was easy working with her because she has the body of a model.”

Jacques was hospitalized and released the following day.

The event chronicled the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Florida’s 8000th granted wish. It is one of 64 chapters in the United States and shares the milestone with only four other chapters. For the organization, the average cost of a wish is $5,000 which it raises through corporate sponsorships, special events, grants, and individual contributions.

“Every wish is special to us but some you remember more than others,” said Richard Kelly, vice president of Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Florida. “And this will be one of them, not because of the number, but because it was one of the highest community involvement this chapter has ever had.”

Photo by: Khary Bruyning/FOR SOUTH FLORIDA TIMES
Richard Kelly, vice president, Make-A-Wish Foundation, stands between Anise Cherisme, left, and her
daughter Debbie ‘Peaches’ Jacques, who was a supermodel for the day.