Brittany Bergsson carries a hero on her wrist. It's a tattoo in honor of one of her Wishing Star Foundation clients, Noelle Atwood of Yakima, who died of colon cancer in 2011.
Bergsson has been president of Wishing Star Tri-Cities for almost six years, and she has worked for the organization since she was 17 and still a Kennewick High School student.
The nonprofit organization headquartered in Spokane raises money to fulfill wishes of seriously ill youth in Idaho and Eastern Washington.
Bergsson, who turns 24 later this month, has graduated from Washington State University Tri-Cities and has resigned from Wishing Star to take a job in Seattle.
"She's an amazing person," said Dawn Johnson of Richland, who has worked with Bergsson on fundraising projects for Wishing Star for about three years.
Johnson said when Bergsson accepted the volunteer position, "she was young enough to not understand what she was getting into."
"Yet she's done an astounding job. Who else do you know who's raised $175,000 for a charity at such a young age?," Johnson asked.
Bergsson's main focus has been raising money and training volunteer wish conductors, the people who work with families to make their child's wish come true.
She also has taken on several wish projects during her six years as a volunteer. And her tattoo is a daily reminder of one in particular.
"Noelle had stage four cancer and had lost a significant amount of weight when her family contacted us," said Bergsson. "Her clothes didn't fit, she had lost six pants sizes, and they were asking for a makeover and shopping spree."
Bergsson took on the project and was able to raise enough in donations to pay for Atwood's shopping spree and a spa day.
In return, Atwood gave Bergsson a rubber bracelet with "Hero" written on it. She was giving them to friends and others who helped her through her illness, saying they were heroes.
Bergsson slipped the bracelet on and vowed it wouldn't come off until Atwood was cancer free.
Atwood died in spring 2011. After the funeral, Bergsson got a call from Atwood's sister, who told her that the "granted wish is one of her favorite memories of her sister," Bergsson said.
In July, Bergsson went to Monarch Tattoo in Kennewick and had them tattoo her left wrist.
"I was a little nervous to have it done, especially in such a visible place. But I wanted a reminder of her. To me, Noelle and all the Wishing Star kids are the true heroes," she said
Bergsson became involved with Wishing Star after one of her teachers suggested organizing a fundraiser. A member of Kennewick High's bowling team, Bergsson decided on a bowlathon. She and DECA members held the event in January 2007 and raised more than $2,000 for Wishing Star.
After graduating high school, Bergsson enrolled in Washington State University Tri-Cities. Shortly afterward, while organizing another bowlathon fundraiser for Wishing Star, the organization asked her to become the president of the Tri-City chapter.
It's a position she held while working as a full-time administrative assistant at Energy Northwest and being a mostly full-time student. She graduated WSU Tri-Cities in May and took a job in Seattle selling first aid supplies and equipment.
As full as her days were, Bergsson said giving up Wishing Star was never an option.
Wishing Star, she said, has made her life richer, fuller and opened her eyes to another side of life.
"The kids in Wishing Star go about with a smile on their face ... there's a lot to be learned from those kids. It's something I'll take with me the rest of my life," she said.
Bergsson's older sister, Brooke Allenbaugh of Kennewick, will be taking over as president of Wishing Star Tri-Cities. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the foundation, go to www.wishingstar.org.