Cardinals help girl's police wish come true
Teen rescues mascots before nabbing culprit at Busch Stadium
ST LOUIS -- Chants of "Ja-li-sha" rang out beyond the outfield at Busch Stadium, and the 14-year-old girl couldn't contain herself. Dressed in her police polo with a badge on her belt, she smiled wide.
What had started like any other day for Jalisha, with a trip to the doctor's office at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center in St. Louis, ended like none other.
Jalisha is battling end-stage renal disease, the final stage of kidney failure, and is currently awaiting a kidney transplant. The one wish she had was to be a cop for a day, and her day finally came Thursday when Make-A-Wish Missouri helped grant it.
"It's really been heartwarming all day long," said John Jones, Jalisha's grandfather. "To see her wish come true of being a police officer has been really nice. Everybody came out and supported her and I'm really happy."
After arriving at the hospital for what Jalisha thought was a routine doctor's appointment, she was whisked away by helicopter to the St. Louis County and Municipal Police Academy, where she received training along with her St. Louis police uniform and badge.
The rest of the day would take her around the city.
"It's not only just fun and games for these kids -- and it is fun; you saw her face light up -- but it also gives these children hope, it gives them energy, it gives them the fight to keep on going and do what the doctor tells them," said Donn Sorensen, president of Mercy Health in St. Louis and vice chair of the Missouri Make-A-Wish Board of Directors. "It gets them away from the things they're facing every day."
In came a call from St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay's office for a special mission for Jalisha. The three St. Louis sports mascots -- Rampage, Louie and Fredbird -- were being held hostage, and Jalisha needed to find them.
She gathered clues at the Edward Jones Dome, home of the St. Louis Rams, and then at the Scottrade Center, home of the St. Louis Blues, before arriving at Ballpark Village for an interview with Jim Hayes on FOX Sports Midwest to ask for assistance.
Jalisha's day-long mission was finally nearing an end, but she took a drink from her bottle of water and pressed on for one last stop at Busch Stadium.
When Jalisha turned the corner at Busch Stadium and saw the crowd, she paused. Her shy smile returned as she stared ahead.
"It's been really nice to see her happy, because most of the time we're back and forth at the hospital," Jones said. "She's been having a good time today."
Tied up in front of her were the three mascots. She pulled the handcuffs off her belt and made the arrest she had always dreamed of.
"I didn't know they were going to be all back here," Jalisha said after she handcuffed the culprit, Rally Squirrel, which she later revealed to be Hayes. "I was in shock; I thought [the kidnapper] was a real person."
Jalisha was presented with gifts, and a proclamation was read naming her an honorary police officer.
What did she learn during her mission?
"I didn't know you had to do all this," Jalisha said. "I had to go to the bathroom and I had to take all this stuff off and then I had to put it all back on."
Sorensen said people can learn a lot from Jalisha, too.
"This young girl can teach us a lot of things," Sorensen said. "She can teach us that in adversity, you can still have hope, you can still smile and you can still make other people laugh. It's remarkable."
With her mission complete, Jalisha sat on a cement step as she was asked what this day meant. She paused for a drink of water and smiled once more.
"If you believe in yourself, that you can do it," Jalisha said, "then go for it."