Published 8:29 pm Saturday, January 20, 2024

When Benji Corley was born, like all newborns in the U.S., a few drops of blood from a heel prick were drawn from his tiny foot and then placed on a special card and sent to a lab where it was screened for cystic fibrosis. When the results came back, it revealed Benji had the progressive illness.

“It’s been quite an adventure since then,” Benji’s mother Jennifer Corley said.

Cystic fibrosis is caused by a defect or mutation in a gene, which can cause severe damage to the lungs, digestive system, and other organs in the body. Both Jennifer and her husband, Adam, carry the gene.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Benji, who is now six years old, might seem like any other student in his first-grade class at St. Francis Xavier Elementary School. He is active, Jennifer said, and is on the school’s swim team.

But that has not always been the case. When Benji was younger he was not able to start pre-school like many of his peers.

“He couldn’t go into daycare until around the age of four because the environment of a daycare was considered too hazardous for his health,” Jennifer said.

And even now, he still must meet with a team of doctors at the University of Mississippi Medical Center who monitor his condition. Jennifer said recently one of those team members reached out to her about the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“She wanted to know if she could put Benji’s name in for a wish,” Jennifer said. “And we said, ‘yes.’”

Benji was chosen as a recipient for a wish and on Jan. 14, in conjunction with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Junior Auxiliary of Vicksburg hosted a party for Benji where it was revealed he and his family would be meeting up with Mickey Mouse at Disney World.

“This is something we have been doing for years,” JAV member Ashley Gustafson said of the reveal party.

JAV is a local non-profit organization that sponsors projects throughout the year geared toward children in the Vicksburg community. Gustafson serves as the chairman of the Make-A-Wish project.

In working with the Make-A Wish Foundation, Gustafson said, the JAV meets with the local family and gathers information that will help in determining a child’s wish. That information is then sent to the foundation.

“And then they take it, and they determine what wish they’re going to grant,” Gustafson said, adding Stacy Craig serves as the Make-A-Wish Foundation contact for the JAV.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation funds the child’s wish and contributes anywhere from $100 to $150 for the reveal party.

“The JAV pays for the remainder of the party,” Gustafson said. “And we always try to make sure that we get each child a gift.”

For Benji’s reveal party, which was held at Triumph Church, the JAV purchased several Nerf guns.

“This ended up making the whole party a Nerf war, which was just right up his alley,” Jennifer Corley said.

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

email author More by Terri Cowart