CHARLOTTE – Hannah Cutlip, a rising junior at Christ the King Catholic School, hoped to use her 16th birthday to make a difference in someone’s life by asking for donations to charity instead of gifts.

The Huntersville resident said she thought charities needed more help than she needed presents, so all the money went to Make-A-Wish Central and Western Carolina.

Cutlip raised $3,000, but she thought she could do more. She participated in a Google+ chat for fans with then-Carolina Panthers linebacker James Anderson, who was touched by the concept.

“I told her if she raised money, I’d match whatever she raised dollar-for-dollar,” said Anderson, now a member of the Chicago Bears.

The $6,000 that went to Make-A-Wish led to 9-year-old Arriana Tan being showered with gifts May 30 at the Ritz-Carlton in Charlotte. Anderson even “knighted” her with an autographed Panthers hat.

Arriana’s big surprise, however, was learning her wish for a Caribbean cruise was granted.

Arriana has fought B Large Cell Lymphoma with the strength of someone much older, Anderson said.

“It’s a great feeling anytime you can be blessed to be in a position to give back to somebody else,” Anderson said, “especially a kid who people may say she’s gone through a lot of tragic things. But to see a smile on her face is a great feeling.”

Cutlip said she’s always wanted to positively influence the lives of those around her.

“It means a lot to be able to do it,” she said. “When I have an opportunity to help others, that’s what I’m going to do. I never really expected anything (from Anderson) but he got back to me as soon as I talked to his publicist.”

Make-A-Wish Central and Western North Carolina Development Manager Jessica Moore lauded the pair’s efforts.

“Hannah asked for donations to Make-A-Wish for her birthday instead of asking for iPads or iPhones or things a lot of 16-year-old girls would ask for,” Moore said. “We’re extremely thankful to both Hannah and James for granting a wish.”

Raymond Marr, Cutlip’s grandfather, said she did all the work on her own without any prompting.

“It was out of the blue,” Marr said. “I’m very proud of her for what she was able to do for Arriana and her family.”

Anderson said he thoroughly enjoyed meeting Arianna and her family at the Make-A-Wish event.

“Seeing the joy she has, even though her situation is less than ideal, is really meaningful,” he said.

Cutlip, who said she’s wanted to contribute to charitable causes since middle school, aims to help out others in need.

“I hope more kids in general can see what a wonderful organization (Make-A-Wish) is,” she said, ”and see how it can impact someone’s life in a good way.”

Want to help?

The Make-A-Wish Central and Western North Carolina grants the wishes of children facing life-threatening conditions in 51 counties, including Iredell, Lincoln and Mecklenburg. The organization has granted 3,000 wishes locally to date and is expected to grant another 237 from September 2012 to August 2013. Details: 704-339-0334 or abrindley@nncwish.org.