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HEALTH MATTERS: BET fulfills a dream for Make-A-Wish recipients

Two 18 year olds whose passion for music and black culture led them down the “blue” carpet at the 2017 BET Awards got the chance to meet some of the biggest names in the music industry

Jayla Walker and Israel Davis, who live on opposite sides of the country, share a commonality. They are both Make-A-Wish participants.

“For the past 10 years, BET Networks has partnered with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to provide unique VIP experiences for wish children that have expressed interest in attending the BET Awards/BET Experience weekend,” said Nneka Norville, director of corporate social responsibility at BET Networks. “This year, we hosted Jayla from Florida and Israel from California.”

The Make-A-Wish Foundation, a national nonprofit organization, grants “wishes” to children with life-threatening medical conditions. The foundation transforms the lives of children with a serious illness by granting one wish on an average of every 35 minutes.

“Doctors give the medicine; Make-A-Wish gives the magic,” said Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar, co-founder and chair of the Maytiv Center. Scienific studies conducted in 2011 and 2015 confirmed the health benefits from the positive impact of the Make-A-Wish intervention on psychiatric symptoms and health-related quality of life for children with life-threatening medical conditions. According to the studies, a combined 89 percent of doctors, nurses and health professionals surveyed say they believe a wish experience can influence wish kids’ physical health.

“We ask the child four questions: If you could be anyone; go anywhere; meet anyone; or receive anything; what would that be?” said Denise Bar-Aharon, co-founder and CEO of Make-A-Wish Isarel who also serves on the board of directors of Make-A-Wish International.

Walker suffers from cystic fibrosis and Davis has pseudomonas, spina bifida and cerebral palsy. Walker’s illness would be listed as a life-threatening respiratory condition and Israel’s condition would likely be listed as life-threatening neurological condition and skeletal malformation. Cystic fibrosis affects more than 30,000 children and young adults in the U.S and there is no cure. However, treatment has improved in recent years.

As part of their wish to experience the BET Awards weekend, Walker and Davis were given an all-access pass to several of the same events that their idols participated in; including the radio remote room where they spoke with radio stations from across the nation; DJ Khaled’s rehearsal; the BET Experience Celebrity Basketball Game/Fan Fest; and the taping of BET Live. The high point of the experience was participating in the “blue” carpet arrivals and the BET Awards Show.

“It was amazing,” Walker said. “It was almost weird because I didn’t know if it would ever really happen.”

The Mayo Clinic defines cystic fibrosis as an inherited disorder that causes severe damage to the lungs, digestive system and other organs in the body. (Infographic source: Cystic Fibrosis Foundation)

Another highlight for the young adults was meeting and interacting with French Montana, Maxwell, Nick Cannon, who suffers from Lupus; DJ Khaled, Big Sean, Laz Alonzo and LaLa Anthony.

“We want all of our productions to be mutually beneficial for everyone, a reciprocal relationship,” Norville said. “BET doesn’t want to come to Los Angeles, unload our trucks, film, then just pack up and leave. We are committed to this community and to young people in general. We want to provide once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for every community we touch and our productions are a perfect vehicle for good corporate citizenship.”

Walker and her parents and siblings were provided accommodations at the host hotel for celebrities attending the BET Experience/Award Show in downtown Los Angeles at LA Live.

“Staying at the hotel with celebrities was really neat,” Walker said. “There were celebrities everywhere and they were so nice. I was star struck. I tried to act cool but inside I was jumping.”

According to Medindia, the severity of the symptoms of Cystic Fibrosis varies from very severe and manifesting in early childhood to mild and does not reveal itself until adolescence or early adulthood.

Alton Walker, Jayla’s dad, said, “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Being able to be around celebrities and go behind the scenes. It gave my daughters and me the ambition to return as an artist. My girls are actually working on an album now.”

One out of every 17,000 African Americans is affected by cystic fibrosis, an inherited disorder caused by a faulty gene that directs how the body produces a type of protein. It causes the most damage to the lungs but also impairs normal digestion.

Remy Ma, who suffered a miscarriage due to an ectopic pregnancy, plans to open a foundation to help women who cannot afford fertility treatments. She won the coveted BET Best Female Hip Hop Artist trophy. (Photo by Marie Lemelle)

Symptoms include nasal congestion, lung damage, chronic coughs and asthma-like symptoms; coughs that produce thick, heavy, discolored mucus; sinus and lung infections; trouble breathing or wheezing, even when at rest; nutrient deficiencies; developmental problems in infants and children; dangerous weight loss; diarrhea; dehydration and electrolyte imbalance; oily, bulky stools; digestive problems; salty skin and chronic fatigue.

Decades ago, people diagnosed with cystic fibrosis did not live past 10 years old. Today, most people with cystic fibrosis live into their 20s and 30s and some into their 40s or 50s.

For young adults like Walker, research and medical technology has improved the quality of life. Along with daily care, dietary requirements, assistance with proper lung function and breathing, physical therapy, exercise and Make-A-Wish partnerships with organizations like BET Networks, the future is a little brighter.

“We believe that participants exercise a different muscle than they are used to, they exercise the muscle of impossibilities,” said Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar. “When they fulfill that wish, it becomes possible and when you turn impossibility into a possibility, why not do it elsewhere when it comes to the medical condition that is being treated.”

Award-winner hip-hop artist Chance the Rapper, with his mother Lisa Bennett on the “blue” carpet, was bestowed with the 2017 BET Humanitarian Award for his demonstrated commitment to the national or local community with a focus on African Americans. At 24, he is the youngest recipient of this award. (Photo by Marie Lemelle)

Together, BET Networks and Make-A-Wish, made the impossible possible for Walker and Davis.

Analysts reported that the broadcast of the 2017 BET Awards June 25 was the number one show viewed by adults 18-49.

According to Showbuzz, the live broadcast was viewed by 3.83 million.


BET Networks –

Medindia –

NIH Medline Plus –

Mayo Clinic –

The National Library of Medicine –

Make-A-Wish Foundation –

Marie Y. Lemelle, MBA, a public relations consultant, is the owner of Platinum Star PR and can be reached on Twitter @PlatinumStar or Instagram @PlatinumStarPR. Send “Health Matters” related questions to and look for her column in The Wave.