Fundraiser comes full circle for former character volunteer, daughter

Published 1:11 am Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Kiley Spears was tired and frustrated Saturday.

Spears, who produces Meredith’s Miracles’ Cookies with Characters each year, had just finished her 11th consecutive show.

Cookies coordinator Kiley Spears, right, with Sara Rose Sanders.

“Not many people realize how many many many hours goes into planning and setting up that size of an event,” she said. “From recruiting 121 kids to play the characters, 73 sponsors, down to the small details of making sure each and everything is set up. It takes months to plan and days to set up.”

And then, she got feedback that someone was disappointed.

“It was pretty disheartening for me,” she said, “even though I understand that I can’t please everyone.”

It was about this time that Sara Rose Sanders approached Spears.

See related story: 2K attend 11th annual event

“I knew her mother, but I didn’t know the child,” Spears recalled. “I asked her if she was having fun. She said ‘yes,’ and then hugged my leg.

“I bent down to talk to her and asked what her favorite part was. She thought for a minute and said, ‘Everything! Just Everything!’ Then she hugged me around the neck. She said, ‘This was the best day ever!’ She asked if I would sign her autograph book and take a picture with her.”

Spears said she was overcome.

“I needed that moment after getting bad feedback,” she said. “As I talked to her mother, Sara continued to hug my leg and smile.”

And what Spears learned in the conversation was how things come full-circle, and an affirmation that her hard work each year with Cookies really makes a difference.

“Samantha Sanders (Sara’s mother) used to be a character for Cookies with Characters,” Spears said. “I had no idea at the time, but Meredith’s Miracles helped Sara’s family when she was a baby.”

Sanders said that Sara was a completely normal infant up to 6 weeks old. It was then that her family learned that Sara had a congenital heart condition, tetralogy of fallot. The condition is a combination of three things (ventrical septal, defect pulmonary override, and chamber malformation).

Sanders had taken her little girl to the doctor in March of 2011 because she was constipated. Expecting to get a prescription for a laxative, she was shocked when she was told to be in Montgomery by “9 the next morning, “to not ask questions, just go.”

“We got to Montgomery and the doctor came in and confirmed what our doctor heard,” Sanders said. “We were told to go straight to Baptist East in Montgomery where Sara was put on Angel 1 and transported critical all the way to Birmingham. When she left Montgomery she was on complete life support. When her dad and I got there she was off the vent but still had feeding tubes and IVs in.”

Six days later, Sara had open heart surgery.

“If it hadn’t been for Meredith’s Miracles, we wouldn’t have eaten and we would have been sleeping in the parking garage for two months,” Sanders said. “Please know that to my family Meredith’s Miracles mean the world. Y’all will never understand how much it meant to us. Sara will still have to undergo another heart surgery, but if it weren’t for y’all Jeremy and I wouldn’t have made it through the first.”

Spears, now rejuvenated, was already planning next year’s event Monday afternoon.

“It is families like this that makes me want to keep going and make Cookies with Characters even better next year,” she said.