Originally Published: March 17, 2013 9:59 p.m.
The stories can be haunting or they can be triumphant but, no matter what, they are life-changing.
For author Rachelle Sparks, families that have been touched by the Make A Wish Foundation are something she will never forget.
Those stories led Sparks to write her first non-fiction book, "Once Upon A Wish," featuring the stories of eight Make A Wish families. The book, released March 5, is available nationwide.
The Make A Wish Foundation is a non-profit organization that works to grant wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses.
Sparks is familiar to many in the Prescott area. She attended high school and college in the tri-city area, and worked as a reporter for The Daily Courier. She now resides in Poway, Calif., with her husband and two boys.
"When most people think of the Make A Wish Foundation, they think 'death,' a child's last, dying wish. I want this book to help change that misconception by revealing how wishes give hope to the most deserving families in the world - families who have faced the unimaginable and emerged with perspective I believe we can all learn from," she said.
Sparks will pay a visit to the Peregrine Book Company in Prescott on Saturday, March 23, for a special presentation and book signing beginning at 2 p.m. The Peregrine Book Company is located at 219A North Cortez Street. More information on the book can be found online at onceuponawishbook.com.
The foundation, she said, isn't just about granting a wish to terminally ill children.
"Most of the stories in the book have happy endings. We all want happy endings, but the reality is some kids don't make it," Sparks said.
Sparks first began to write about Wish families while working in Prescott.
"These families changed me. Not only the families in the book, but also the Wish families in Prescott that I met long before writing this book. They have all made me realize that life should never, ever be taken for granted," she said. "This is not a book of sadness. It is, by the nature of its subject, painful to read at times, but mostly, "Once Upon A Wish" is an open door to the lives of every Wish family, and I am so grateful and honored that the families featured so graciously opened that door - not only to me, but to the world - by sharing their stories that truly reflect the strength and resilience of the human spirit."
While she's currently promoting the book, Sparks said there may be other Make A Wish books on the horizon.
"This is my main focus right now. There are so many stories out there that I feel need to be told. The Make A Wish Foundation has granted almost 300,000 wishes worldwide. Obviously you can't tell every story, but I have plans for future books. That's what I want to do," Sparks said. "I want people to know these families the way I do. Everyone has heard of the foundation, but no one knows exactly what these families go through. Reading the book is definitely an emotional rollercoaster."
Sparks said she was excited to begin the book promotion effort in Prescott.
"I'm excited to be at the new bookstore in downtown and hoping I see a lot of familiar faces. It would be a comfortable way to start this journey," Sparks said, adding that she first began the book seven years ago, but only recently completed the work after finding an agent and securing a publisher for the work. Writing the book involved meeting a number of the families, and Sparks traveled across the country to meet each family in person.