By Cathy Free and Ken Lee
Updated June 17, 2013 12:00 PM

DONNALYN QUINTANA, 65 Weatherford, Texas

Raised in a family of rodeo professionals, Donnalyn Quintana recalls weeping while reading a 1990 newspaper story about a South Dakota boy who had to quit competitive roping to battle cancer. “I thought, ‘Someone should get [rodeo star] Roy Cooper to brighten his day.’ ” Facing her own cancer scare later that year, Quintana was devastated to learn the boy had died. “I could’ve made a difference with one phone call,” she says. As she was wheeled into surgery to remove a throat tumor, the grandmother of three made a vow: “I said, ‘Lord, if I survive, I’ll help others like him.’ ” She’s made good on her promise: In 1994 the former dental assistant started the nonprofit Western Wishes (, raising funds to help more than 600 terminally ill or disabled kids by making their cowboy dreams reality. She’s arranged visits with country star Reba McEntire and bronc legend Tuff Hedeman and even bought a girl suffering from cystic fibrosis her very own horse. Last June, Chandler Davis, 5, of Glen Rose, Texas, who has a rare pancreatic disorder, got a wish fulfilled when he was sworn in as an honorary deputy sheriff and given a uniform and badge. “Chandler was on cloud nine for days,” says his mom, Jennifer Yocham, 25. “Donnalyn is family to us now.”