Elon University sophomore Amy Wolf won’t ever forget her trip to this year’s Grammy Awards.
“It will always be with me, because I was able to share it with my best friend and my mom,” the Durham resident said.
Make-A-Wish of Eastern North Carolina answered Wolf’s wish this month to attend the star-studded music event. The group gave her and three other recipients – plus two guests each – a five-day, whirlwind Los Angeles experience, Wolf said.
The nonprofit organization selects recipients through referrals from doctors, parents and children, granting nearly 14,000 wishes in 2011, at an average cost of just over $7,000 each. Children making wishes must have a life-threatening medical condition and be under the age of 18.
Wolf, 19, made her wish in 2012 while being treated for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer that attacks the immune system. She was diagnosed just before her junior year at Jordan High School in Durham. She graduated in 2013.
Her father, Phil Wolf, is a member of the Chapel Hill Leads Group, a business networking and philanthrophy organization.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma affects more than 63,000 people a year, according to the National Cancer Institute, and early symptoms include swollen lymph nodes, weight loss and fever. Wolf also had fluid building in her lungs and around her heart by the time she was diagnosed, she said.
Wolf’s doctors at Duke Hospital ordered chemotherapy, radiation treatments and two bone marrow transplants, one using her stem cells and later with donor stem cells, she said. She continued her schoolwork with the help of hospital and home teachers.
“A lot of my friends were able to come and visit me when I was home and in the hospital,” Wolf said, “so that was very comforting to have them just be there for me.”
She will mark three years in remission this summer.
The Grammy trip – her first to the West Coast – was exciting, Wolf said. They were treated like celebrities, getting professional hair and makeup, and, in between homework breaks, taking in the sights, from the Hollywood Walk of Fame to The Grove, home of the city’s historical Farmer’s Market. They also got VIP access to Ryan Seacrest’s gifting suite, where nonprofits and businesses offered goodies to celebrities in the hope of landing an endorsement.
“We got to talk to a bunch of people,” she said. “It was kind of an exclusive thing, so I thought that was really cool and something that I couldn’t have done ... if I went by myself.”
Their tickets also let them into open rehearsals, where they watched AC/DC, Miranda Lambert and Sam Smith perform before the show. They scanned the red carpet as an array of celebs passed by, holding up signs to get their attention. Singers Meghan Trainor and Beyonce, actor Neil Patrick Harris and others stopped by to say hello, she said. They were more humble than she expected, Wolf said
Now back at college, Wolf wants to help other young cancer patients.
She already earned the credits for a psychology minor, having attended Durham Tech her first year to ease into the pace of college studies. She’s working toward a human services major and a career as a therapist, using play to help other kids express themselves and develop coping skills.
“I just want to make an impact like (my therapist) did on me for other kids that might not be as lucky to have someone as amazing as her,” Wolf said. “I really love kids. Working with them and seeing them thrive makes me very happy. (The hospital) setting is so depressing, and seeing kids exceed – whether it’s academically or emotionally – I think it’s just amazing.”