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Weather Channel, Make a Wish Team for Budding Actress, Meteorologist

Bizzers help foundation's kids experience their career dreams

Make-A-Wish is accustomed to granting requests to meet celebs from children with life-threatening illnesses. But a pair of recent biz-related appeals had more to do with becoming a star than meeting one.

Most kids want to visit TV show sets or meet celebrities (including the biggest wish-granter in company history, WWE wrestler John Cena).

But a handful of children have asked to develop videogames, publish comicbooks and star in their own dreams. Like 8-year-old Sophia Thompson and 14-year-old Emerson Olsen.

Thompson, recovering from surgery to remove a tumor discovered behind one of her eyes, traveled from her home in Seattle to visit the Atlanta headquarters of the Weather Channel several weeks ago. There, the budding meteorologist was greeted by almost 700 employees in T-shirts emblazoned with her name. Her studio and green room were personalized as well. But best of all, she got to create weather maps, directed a portion of the show “The Morning Rush” and anchored a live weather report alongside one of her heroes, Stephanie Abrams.

Thompson’s dad, Devin Thompson, said the experience sparked her enthusiasm for broadcast meteorology. It was also the ideal way to celebrate the one-year anniversary of her treatment, he said. “It really showed her that you could do anything,” said the proud father. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re a girl or a boy, or had cancer or not.”

Shirley Powell, the Weather Channel’s exec VP of corporate communications, said Thompson’s day was as morale-boosting for the channel’s staffers as it was for its newest trainee.

“This little girl could literally pick anything in the world, and she chose to come here,” Powell said. “It was such an awesome and huge honor and responsibility.”

Josh deBerge, Make-A-Wish’s national communications manager, said wishes are fundamental to children’s treatments because they allow them to adopt a more positive outlook.

“Any time you can inspire or encourage a child to be ambitious, whether it’s in their career or giving back to the community, it’s a positive outcome,” deBerge said.

Olsen’s career-oriented wish was to live a day in the life of an actress in New York City. She received voice lessons from Trapper Felides — star of Oxygen’s reality show “The Next Big Thing: NY” — took an acting class, had a photo shoot, and met with a manager and an agent. The youngster, who is recovering from brain cancer, dreams of becoming a comedic actress one day and teaching acting to children with special needs.

She said her trip to the Big Apple gave her the tools and skills to realize her goals.

“This was a start in the right direction,” the Montana native said. “I love that New York has so many opportunities. There are not as many opportunities in L.A. because you have to be perfect there, I think.”

Felides, who’s planning to host a Gotham benefit to raise money for Olsen and her family, said the experience showed Olsen the stamina that’s required to make it in the business.

“She never complained,” Felides said. “She went through the whole day just like one of the professional kids who’s been doing it for years (and who had had time) to work up to it. She did what would happen in a week in the course of a day.”

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