Mom and Dad, Gay and David Knapp, help their daughter, Aubriel, try out a specialized swing made available for the eight-year-old through the Make-A-Wish East Tennessee office and two superintendents with a Knoxville office general contractor. Judging from the smiles that filled the Knapp’s yard, it was hard to determine who had the best day.

Smiles and laughs filled the back yard of Gay and David Knapp home Thursday. As if on cue, the grey rain clouds broke and for a moment and the sun shined and it mattered not what was going on in the outside world.

Eight-year-old Aubriel recaptured her love and excitement and happiness of body in motion. 

It was all thanks to a simple request to the Make-A-Wish East Tennessee office in Knoxville and two construction superintendents for the Knoxville general contractor office of Christman Company.

“That is what it is about,” Christman’s Michael Kakouris said. He took a break from a job at the Tennessee veteran’s facility in Cleveland and met Frank Bowling who left a project, at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville.

“When they contacted us and asked for a couple of volunteers to put the swing together, we jumped on it,” KaKouris said.

Thursday morning, at times in showers of rain, the two men put together the handicapped accessible swing for the scheduled 1 p.m. maiden voyage. It was projected it would take four hours.

The two skilled men did it in three hours, and stuck around to witness the joy their labor would bring.

Just over a year ago, Aubriel’s Palliative Care doctor, Michaela Ibach, at Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital, offered up Make-A-Wish for Aubriel. She then contacted them on Aubriel’s behalf.

Shelby Lucas, Make-A-Wish East Tennessee coordinator, who is charged with processing and coordinating such requests for 36 counties, checked out the request and recommended it to her peers.

Among the first tasks to be done was locating a handicapped-accessible swing that would hold Aubriel’s wheelchair. Then Lucas had to recruit volunteers to build and install the apparatus.

“Aubriel loves to swing, but that’s become more difficult as she has gotten older,” a Make-A-Wish release stated. 

“Swinging makes her laugh and smile. Her new accessible swing will allow her to enjoy her favorite activity as she grows and will help her create happy memories with her family in their own backyard.”

Make-A-Wish East Tennessee grants wishes to children with critical conditions to provide hope, strength and joy.

“Wishes are medicine and can help children face treatment with renewed commitment. Additionally, wishes give children, their parents and others a chance to enjoy a special time together.”

This set the stage for Thursday’s presentation of the Aubriel’s special swing, but there was one thing lacking.

Bowling and Kakouris had listened as David Knapp talked about having to clean mud off the wheels of Aubriel’s wheelchair when taken out to swing when the ground was wet. 

Upon completing the swing, the two men drove to Crossville and purchased several rubber mats that were laid from the ramp off the deck of the Knapp’s house to the new swing site.

“Giving kiddos something to look forward to is what it is all about,” Lucas noted. “Aubriel loves to be in motion.”

“Everyone has been so kind and generous and we are very grateful,” said Gay Knapp.

All present were grateful for the roles they played in making a simple, but very important wish, reality.

As the air filled with smiles, one would find it hard to determine just who was filled with the greatest joy.

Michael Moser may be reached at

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