SPOKANE, Wash. - For the last 21 years, Christmas Wish has brought holiday joy through families in need across Spokane. While every wish is special, the one granted Wednesday forged a special connection between a listener and 929 ZZU host Ken Hopkins.
More than 500 people wrote letters this year, nominating deserving families and individuals to receive holiday gifts from Dave, Ken and Molly. Two of those letter writers - unbeknownst to each other - nominated the Richart family in Spokane Valley.
"They've had help from a lot of people," said Nicole Osborn, a friend who nominated them. "I'm surprised more people didn't nominate them."
The Richarts' life turned upside down in an instant last spring. Brandon was out backpacking with friends when he decided to climb a tree. He fell 30 feet from the ground, suffering a life-changing spinal cord injury. He is paralyzed from the chest down and, while he has some movement in his arms, he has no dexterity in his hands. He and his wife aren't working right now; Chrismas was uncertain for them and their three young children.
"He's a very proud man," said family friend Allison Atkins, who also nominated the family for a Christmas Wish. "He doesn't want to ask anybody for help. I knew it would have to be forced upon him."
Wednesday morning, that forced help arrived in the form of a group of Christmas Wish elves. Arms loaded with gift cards, wrapped gifts for the kids and even an Avista certificate for $100, the elves knocked on the Richart's door and told them Christmas had arrived early.
"We heard what happened to Brandon and we've heard your story and want you to have a Christmas Wish," host Dave Sposito told Christina Richart over the phone. "We have lots of things for you to help you through the holidays."
While the elves stacked presents for the kids under the tree, Christina handed the phone to Brandon, already overwhelmed by the outpouring of support. He was able to talk to ZZU host Ken Hopkins, who himself was paralyzed in a bike accident last year.
"There's just as many ups as there are downs," Ken told Brandon on the phone. "I know you have a lot of people who care about you. You're putting your life back together, that's what's happening."
Brandon calls himself Ken's Facebook stalker, saying he looks at Ken's page to find inspiration and to find answers he hasn't yet thought to ask.
"I never see Ken's situation [being about] Ken," Brandon said. "I wish I could be like that. His personality just inspires you."
As it turns out, Brandon was inspiring Ken, too.
"Brandon, I saw your story... I was familiar with a story on Facebook," Ken said. "My wife and I, as great as the community was for us, we wanted to donate back to someone who truly needed assistance similar to mine."
Ken and his wife Tricia made plans to donate to Brandon's family; Tricia's mom will match that donation. The families planned to meet up and talk later in the day.
The entire morning provided a lift more valuable to Brandon than any gift under the tree.
"I can't afford nothing for my wife, I have people buying stuff for me when I used to buy stuff for them," Brandon said, through tears. "Something like this... it's amazing."
"Thank you guys," Christina said to the Christmas Wish crew and the friends who nominated them. "We appreciate it more than we could ever express."
Another Christmas Wish granted, another family changed. The Richarts were the 7th family to have a Christmas Wish delivery this season; 16 families will get that visit before the end of the campaign in mid-December. Hundreds more will receive gift cards, courtesy of this long-standing Spokane tradition.
You can hear all of this year's Christmas Wish deliveries and learn more about how to donate to the program here: http://dkmshow.com/
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