5 Heartwarming Stories of Sick Kids and their Heroes

Childen with terminal illnesses need a lot of comfort and support. These incredible stories show how the heroes in our communities help lift their spirits.

We all know the Make a Wish Foundation does incredible things for kids who are seriously ill. Volunteers spend countless hours on the phone, trying to secure a meet and greet with the Minnesota Vikings, or a playdate with a real live wolverine—or, yes, even turn San Francisco into Gotham City for Batman’s special day. All told, the Foundation grants a wish to a child with a life-threatening illness every 37 minutes, helping thousands of children keep smiling during some of the hardest times of their lives.

But while Make a Wish is an amazing organization, it’s not the only one out there working to support children who’ve been given a tough blow in life. Here’s a sampling of some other people and organizations that have made the effort to go the extra mile for kids with life-threatening illnesses.

Icing Smiles delivers custom cakes to kids who need a reason to celebrate

Remember the photo of an Elsa cake that looked a little… well, otherworldly? The cake went viral and was mocked relentlessly, until the backstory came out, and bloggers started feeling a little guilty about the whole thing.

As it turned out, the cake had been created by a volunteer for Icing Smiles, an organization that provides free custom-decorated cakes to children with life-threatening illnesses. Even though Elsa wasn’t perfect, and the baker fully admitted it wasn’t her best work, the recipient was thrilled. Every day, “Sugar Angels” around the country volunteer their time and ingredients to prepare cakes for kids with serious illnesses, and for their siblings (who too often miss out). Check out Icing Smiles’ collection of cakes, or sign up to volunteer your own talents.

Wigs ‘n Wishes gives boy a beach backyard

A 4-year-old boy named Chad Carr lives in Michigan, and is suffering from a rare and aggressive brain tumor. He wanted more than anything to go to the beach this summer, and a charity, Wigs ‘n Wishes, had planned to send his family to Florida—but he wasn’t well enough to make the trip. So instead, the charity opted to bring the beach to him. They set up sand, seashells, bubbles, and a hot tub in the family’s backyard, and surprised Chad with the scene. "I got to see Chad's face and how excited he was when he saw everything,” said Chad’s mother, Tami Curtis Carr. “ He had the combination of all of his wishes.”

Celebs get into character to cheer up their young fans

Of course, we know actors aren’t their characters, but that’s not always true of young kids. Imagine how psyched you would have been to get a phone call from Big Bird or Elmo when you were little? Well, Sesame Street is as strong as ever, but today’s heroes also include the Pirates of the Caribbean and the mighty royals of Frozen.

Recently, Johnny Depp got into character with full makeup as Jack Sparrow to visit a sick seven-year-old superfan at his hospital room in Australia, where he’d recently been in a coma.

Meanwhile, Kristen Bell—the voice of Anna in Frozen called Avery, a little girl with a brain tumor, to tell her the good news: Avery was going to be an honorary princess! The sweet message no doubt gave a big lift to Avery’s spirits.

Virginia town throws surprise Sweet 16 for teen with leukemia

Abby Snider was diagnosed with leukemia last year, and the medical bills have taken their toll on her family. Leading up to her 16th birthday in March, her parents wanted to throw her a big party, but it simply wasn’t in their budget. Fortunately, the Stillbrave Cancer Foundation stepped up to pull off the ultimate surprise birthday party for Abby, with help from the entire town of Winchester, Virginia.

The foundation asked Abby to present a speech at a fundraiser, which she gladly accepted, even though the event was to be held on her birthday. She spent weeks working on her speech, and got glammed up for the event at a local salon, then was surprised to see a limo pull up. After arriving at a hotel ballroom, she was shocked to see more than 100 friends and family members, yelling “surprise!”

Along with the Foundation, individuals and local businesses had joined in to host the birthday party and make it an event to remember. "It was awesome. I literally felt like Cinderella for the night," Abby told ABC News.  The only downside is that she didn’t get to give her speech—but “I’ll save it for another day,” she says.