CHARLOTTE — The Macy’s store at Northlake Mall has a red carpet, for special guests and special occasions.
They rolled it out Friday for Emily Hain, an 18-year-old from Salisbury who has Chiari malformation, a rare brain disorder, plus other life-threatening conditions.
She’s had numerous surgeries to try to correct these problems.
Home-schooled for much of her high school career, Emily has suffered from frequent headaches, memory loss and other complications.
Her mother, Kathy Hain, said Emily hasn’t gotten to do a lot of the things normal teens do.
“She just got her driver’s license yesterday,” Kathy said — a milestone she said had been delayed by surgeries and treatments.
But when Emily stepped out of a chauffeured black SUV at the entrance to Macy’s, the smiles and applause of staff brought a smile to her face.
This was her day.
And it’s not over. In a matter of days, Emily, her parents and her sisters will take off on a trip together, courtesy of Make-a-Wish.
The charity provides special experiences for young people with serious or terminal illnesses, and for their families.
“My wish was to go to New York City,” Emily said. “I wanted to see ‘Wicked’ on Broadway.”
The hit musical is based on Gregory McGuire’s novel, which tells the “true story” of the Wicked Witch of the West from “The Wizard of Oz”
“I don’t know that much about it,” said Emily, who admits she got a copy of the novel, but hasn’t been able to read it.
Kelly said she’s looking forward to seeing it unfold on stage.
Her dream of going to New York, Emily said, started with movies she watched as a girl.
“I’m not a country person!” she said. “I just always thought it would be great to go there.”
Together, she said, she looks forward to seeing the World Trade Center site and memorial, the Statue of Liberty — “and the tourist stuff. Just being there, in the atmosphere,” Emily said.
“We hear there’s a little more going on in New York than in Salisbury,” joked Jeff Hain, Emily’s father.
Emily said the trip will be fun for her parents and her sisters – Lily, 12, and Baylie, 15.
“I feel like they’ve missed out on a lot, because of everything I’ve had to deal with,” Emily said.
Baylie said she’s also excited about “seeing the sights and getting to spend time together, ’cause we’re always rushing around.”
Liz Patton, the Hains’ Make-A-Wish coordinator, said some of the upcoming trip will be a surprise for the family.
Local staff who work for the charity are making arrangements in New York, she said.
Locally, some of the support for the trip came from volunteers from Women For Wishes, a Lake Norman group that raises money for Make-A-Wish.
The ideas for Friday’s trip to Macy’s came from a partnership between the department store chain and the charitable foundation.
Amy Brindley, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish Central and Western N.C., said her group has made wishes come true for 219 kids and families in 2012.
“I mean, it’s incredible,” Brindley said. “The impact that we have on every individual child’s life is significant … at a time that they need it most.”
Debbie Sell, store manager of Macy’s at Northlake, said the store’s staff members had pitched in to donate some accessories based on what Make-A-Wish had recommended.
That the family was going to Macy’s wasn’t a surprise, organizers said.
But what Emily found was a surprise.
Cheering staff members. Balloons. Flashbulbs popping.
And Larry Sprinkle, of WCNC-TV, with a cameraman, ready to do a “red carpet interview” with Emily and her mom.
Inside the store, Sell presented a gift bag on behalf of Macy’s.
Inside were accessories in Emily’s favorite color, purple. “We’ve got purple nail polish, fuzzy socks, just a lot of great things that a teenage girl would love,” Sell said.
The store also gave the family a $500 gift card to help them get ready for the trip to New York.
“The store associates couldn’t be more excited to be a part of this,” Sell said.
Nearby were friends from Salisbury who drove to Charlotte to greet the Hains.
“Ever since she got sick, we’ve been there for her,” said Jill Duggan, one of Kelly’s co-workers at Hurley Elementary.
“You know, it’s a hectic time of year, but there’s no way we would have missed this,” said another friend, Debby McCoy of Salisbury. “The girl has been through a lot.”
As her daughters sat in the beauticians’ chairs, getting makeovers, Kelly remarked on how different the day was from Dec. 14, 2011.
On that day, she said, Emily was in surgery.
“A year ago we were praying she would survive … and be up for more than 20 minutes at a time,” Kelly said.
When Sprinkle asked Kelly a question about Christmas gifts, Kelly said, “Forget the gifts, there’s my gift, right there,” pointing to her daughters.
Jeff, who works for a building products company, said the stress of Emily’s treatments has been difficult, at times, to bear.
“It has taken a toll, being in both places, trying to work,” Jeff said.
There’s also the fact, Kelly said, that even with insurance, their debt for medical bills is over $64,000.
None of that was foremost on their minds Friday, Jeff said.
“What’s going through my mind is, I’m just thrilled that she’s able to have a bit more of a normal life,” Jeff said.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.