Make-A-Wish Foundation, Mantachie High students make wish come true

By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times

Something amazing happened to seven-year-old Janie Bertlesen last week.

While attending a student concert/talent show inside the Mantachie High School gymnasium, Bertlesen was called on stage to meet her favorite singer, Justin Bieber. Suddenly, she was in the center spotlight, surrounded by dozens of people, flashing lights and television cameras.

That’s when Mickey Mouse took the stage. Bertlesen seemed a little dumfounded.

Right this very moment, Bertlesen and her family are in Orlando, Fla., enjoying a stay at the Disney World Resort, courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the students of Mantachie High School, who have been helping raise money to make the young girl’s “wish” a reality.

Bertlesen suffers from Marshall Smith Syndrome, an extremely rare and life-threatening childhood condition that causes advanced bone maturation, growth failure and numerous respiratory problems. At this time, the syndrome is incurable; most children who suffer from it don’t survive past the ages of seven or eight.

Established in 1980, the Make-A-Wish Foundation grants “wishes” for children with life-threatening conditions. Each year, the organization grants more than 13,000 “wishes,” which are sponsored through the help of local volunteers and donations.

Bertlesen’s “wish” was made possible through the efforts of Mantachie students and residents, including members of the Anchor Club.

Bertlesen’s “wish” was granted at the finale of an elaborate ruse on the part of Mantachie High School students. Originally, Bertlesen’s “wish” was to meet her favorite singer, Justin Bieber. Unfortunately, the waiting list for Bieber appearances was lengthy, so Bertlesen’s family decided her second wish — a chance to go to Disney World — should be granted instead.

But the students at Mantachie High School decided to do a bit of mixing and matching. Instead of just handing over some Disney World tickets, they organized a huge concert event, packing the school’s gym with a stomping, singing, dancing crowd of students. Down on the front bleacher was Bertlesen and her family — guests of honor. The show opened with a couple of performances from MHS students before moving into the grand finale — a performance from Justin Bieber “himself” (or, at least a decent facsimile of … Bieber was portrayed by MHS student Seth Dickinson).

While Bertlesen seemed a bit shocked at first, (When told she would be getting on a plane in four days, she responded with a frank, “Nuh-huh.), she was smiling by the end. That likely grants her parents’ wish, too.

adam.armour@journalinc.com