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(Photo courtesy of Jahwanza Lawford)

Once he needed a wish, now he’s making them happen

A Fresno State athlete is using his class project as a chance to spread holiday cheer.

Track athlete Jahwanza Lawford and a group of students are taking part in “Macy’s Believe” campaign benefitting the Make-A-Wish foundation for a project in their group communication class.

In the ‘Believe’ campaign, kids line up at their local Macy’s store to drop off letters to Santa in a big red letterbox.

Lawford and his classmates came up with a plan to distribute “Believe” postcards to spread the word that now through Dec. 24, for each letter received in store or online, Macy’s will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, hoping to raise $1 million.

The money will be used to grant wishes to children across the country with critical illnesses.

“Everybody has to do a community service type project that benefits the community. It can be original or you can work with an organization,” Lawford said.

He said it wasn’t hard for him to convince the others in the group that this charity was a great way to bring smiles to the faces of those in need.

“We all know that Make-A-Wish helps a lot of kids and so everyone was on board because we were now part of making it happen for a young kid somewhere,” he said.

Lawford said he and a group member, who also volunteered for Make-A-Wish, came up with the idea to help earn funds for the foundation by remembering their own experiences. In high school, Lawford was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a disease similar to leukemia, as well as severe liver hepatitis.

“I was in the hospital for a few months so I know how it feels to be in the hospital with nothing to do really. I thought that it would be great to give back to a program that helped me when I needed it,” Lawford said.

Being a football player and track athlete, Lawford said he wished to have a year’s tuition to play football at Alabama. His dream was dashed though when his doctors said that playing football could put his life in jeopardy.

“If I got hit out there I could start bleeding internally and I could pass away because I wouldn’t know it,” Lawford said.

Lawford said that getting the ball rolling to start the project with the members of his group was tough at first as there was another athlete, a football player, in the group but eventually things became easier once they all began working together.

“We have conflicting schedules but once we got passed all of that, everything really just clicked and we found time that we could work together and go to Macy’s,” Lawford said.

With the project in full boar, Lawford said he hopes to raise more funds. The group recently stated they had raised more than $400.