WINSTON-SALEM — For the second straight year, Wynter Guess didn’t ask for anything to unwrap Christmas morning.
Instead, the Lewisville 12-year-old wanted something that wouldn’t fit under any tree — a charity.
Her wish came one day early.
Life Wishes, Inc. launched during the Christmas holiday at Wynter’s second annual Christmas Eve breakfast for the homeless at Goler Memorial A.M.E. Zion’s Enrichment Center.
Surrounded by homeless and volunteers, Wynter unveiled her newest effort to reach out to those less fortunate. The nonprofit will grant wishes to people in need.
“I always told her when she reaches up, to reach out,” said Tamela Guess, Wynter’s mother.
Wynter took the lesson to heart.
Life Wishes grew out of the seventh-grader’s insatiable desire to give back. She started the breakfast event in 2012 when, at 11 years old, Wynter asked her parents for help feeding the homeless as her Christmas present. When her mom said Wynter couldn’t get the iPhone 5 she originally asked for, Wynter said the breakfast was the only other thing she wanted.
“I said, ‘Are you sure? You know you won’t get anything else,’” Tamela Guess said.
Wynter said she was sure. And she asked for the same thing this Christmas.
The breakfast turnout was larger than last year. More than 100 showed up to eat and about 50 volunteers helped hand out gifts, man the kitchen and serve food. But that wasn’t enough. Wynter wanted to do more.
“I saw more of a need,” she said.
Through Life Wishes, she will be able to meet the needs of others throughout the year.
Different from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Life Wishes will grant wishes to those in need and the reasons for the need can be as varied as the requests themselves. School field trip costs, prom dresses, food and medical expenses are just a few of possible wishes that Wynter said could be granted through Life Wishes.
She’s wasting no time, either. At the breakfast, Life Wishes granted its first one.
Michael Griffin heard about the breakfast from other residents at the Bethesda Center for the Homeless. He followed them down to the Goler Enrichment Center on North Patterson Avenue, where he found eggs, bacon, grits and toast — and, possibly, hope.
Griffin picked up one of the Life Wishes brochures and promptly wrote down his wish.
“I need some clothes,” Griffin said.
Griffin said he has a hard time finding clothes in his large size. He said he has just one shirt and two pairs of pants, and he said his coat was recently stolen.
“I didn’t want to (ask), but there are people out there who will help,” he said.
Wynter said Griffin’s request fits perfectly with her mission — it’s a small need to most people but will make a big difference to Griffin.
Life Wishes plans to start with two large fundraising events a year to help fuel Wynter’s mission.
The Life Wishes board — which is still looking to fill two seats — will screen wish applications.
“I told her it’s a lot of work,” Wynter’s mother said.
“And I’m ready for it,” Wynter added.