In honor of the GRAMMY® Awards this Sunday, February 10, we’re throwing it back to a very special wish granted by one of music’s biggest superstars of all time. Tiffany Rowe describes how her wish to dance with Michael Jackson changed her forever.
I first became aware of the Make-A-Wish Foundation in 1988 when they showed up at my front door and asked what I wanted to wish for. My original prognosis was three to six months and it’s been 27 years! I have a history of severe idiopathic aplastic anemia which is basically complete bone marrow failure. I was diagnosed in 1984 at the age of 11. It entered a tenuous remission and relapsed freshman year in high school.
My wish was to dance with Michael Jackson. I’d grown up in dance, I’d been a dancer my whole life. I felt that the way he connected with the world and understood the world was through dance.
My Make-A-Wish volunteers were honest and said, “Gosh, okay, let’s see what we can do.” Then one day I was sitting in my high school lunchroom and the lights went down and the Man in the Mirror came over the PA system. A Michael Jackson impersonator came out in front of my whole lunch room and danced and lip-synced to Man in the Mirror and then presented me with the invitation to come to the concert.
Just a few weeks later we were on an airplane headed to Chicago which was the next stop on his tour. We went to the concert the night we arrived. I went backstage to meet him and he spent the first few minutes of our conversation saying, “Really, you could have done anything and you wanted to meet me?” and he meant it. It was amazing! He was extraordinary. Then we had a picture taken and I went back out to enjoy the concert. We had great seats and I thought it was over. About midway through, this huge security guard shows up at the end of my aisle and passes a note down. It said, “Michael Jackson requests your presence on stage.” So, he threw me over his shoulder and put me up on stage and I danced to the song Bad. I don’t remember what I did – people always ask, and I say, “I have no idea! I don’t remember!” But I was changed in that moment.
There is something truly elemental about what we do as Make-A-Wish, to allow kids who are facing very grown up circumstances to touch back into what it is to be a kid and to remember that; to be reminded that it’s okay to step outside of your circumstances and have big dreams. More than anything, it just made me feel really alive again in a way that I hadn’t given myself permission to in a long time. And it stayed that way for me, it really has. For 27 years that wish, that power, that moment has been with me. I get to remember and remind myself that there is power in hoping. It’s been transformative for me.
Tiffany Rowe has volunteered for Make-A-Wish for 27 years, beginning after her own wish was granted in April 1988. She was the first wish child elected to the Make-A-Wish America National Board of Directors. Currently, Tiffany serves as the Chair of the Make-A-Wish National Board Alumni Association.