By Paula Walter
Four-year-old Trae Wampler, along with his parents, Courtney and Thomas, are packing up and are ready to head to Disney World on an adventure of a lifetime. The trip is part of the “Wish I May, Wish I Might,” a dream of Melissa Gentry’s to make special memories for people in the Johnson County community. With the help of four anonymous donors, the Wampler family has received enough funding to make plans for a week of fun, family time and memories.
The Wamplers met Gentry, who is the woman behind Rescue DOG and End of Life Sanctuary in Johnson County, when the family adopted a dog from her. “They touched my heart,” said Gentry as she recalled their first meeting. “I wanted to do something special for Trae,” she said. “It started with just $100 and it got bigger. No one hesitated to help.”
Trae, a busy little boy with a smile that lights up his face, was born with TAR syndrome. The disorder is also referred to as thrombocytopenia with absent radius. The bone between the elbow and the wrist is significantly shorter in those with TAR. Additionally, the platelet count may be severely reduced. Platelets are minute blood cells that help blood clot. A normal platelet count is considered between 150,000 to 450,000. According to Courtney, Trae’s was a mere 5,000 when he was born. He has what Courtney refers to as upper limb difference and some lower limb difference.
According to his parents, they made the decision to be more hands off in order to encourage Trae to be independent. “We don’t just jump in and help him,” Courtney said. “It has helped him think outside the box.” The Wamplers try to avoid the word disability because everyone is made differently, explained Courtney.
According to his parents, Trae is very excited to go to Disney World. He loves dinosaurs and animals, so he is very excited to go to Animal Kingdom. “He wants to be a zoo keeper when he grows up, or a paleontologist,” Courtney said. With an impish grin on his face, Trae piped in with “paleontologist.” He is looking forward to seeing Nimo, a clownfish. “He has lucky fins like me,” Trae said, referring to his shortened arms.
Thomas Wampler teaches chemistry at Johnson County High School and also coaches the girls’ basketball team. Courtney and Thomas moved to Johnson City from Virginia so Thomas could finish his education at Milligan College. When they found out that Trae would have some special needs, they were relieved that the care he required was nearby at Niswonger Children’s Hospital and St. Jude’s. “I feel like God brought us to Mountain City,” Courtney said.
The family is planning on staying in the Disney Resort Park and will visit each of the parks, most likely beginning and ending with Animal Kingdom. Gentry had asked the Wamplers where they might like to go as a family. “This was a shock to us,” Courtney said. At first Courtney suggested the zoo. “No, think big,” Gentry encouraged. “We would never be able to do this trip on our own,” Courtney continued. “We are very grateful.”
According to Courtney, Trae has been a part of the Johnson County community from day one. “The longer we are here, the more he is just Trae,” she said. “People have accepted him for who is he is. We are so grateful to know Melissa and be in the Mountain City Community. This quickly became home.”
If you would like to follow Trae and his adventures in Disney World, download the instagram app and search the name “Wampy Woman.” The family will be posting pictures to share memories that will remain with them a lifetime.