Ernest P. Worrell was once one of the biggest requested people to meet for the Make-A-Wish foundation and Varney never let the kids down. Even later in life when he was ill, Varney would don the outfit or pick up the phone to cheer up a sick child. According to the The Nashville Scene:
Even if Ernest is a nationally recognized figure—thanks to nine movies and more than 4,000 commercials—to these kids, he is a playmate. He’s a beloved fixture, a pal they can watch on videotape whenever they need comfort or companionship. But he’s also proven to be a true, flesh-and-blood friend many times over: When given the chance to have a lifelong dream fulfilled by such groups as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, several hundred terminally ill children have asked to meet Ernest. And he’s never let them down.
Perhaps the most memorable was the 8-year-old girl who wanted to have breakfast with Ernest, even though she could only be fed through an IV. Donning his Ernest getup of a gray flannel T-shirt, a denim vest, khaki hat, and blue jeans, Varney met the girl for breakfast at Disney World. “I got her a set of post earrings with her birthstone because she had just gotten her ears pierced,” he recalls. “She asked her mother if it would be all right if she could wear them in her casket so she could wear them to heaven.
“I just made a surprise call from Ernest to a kid last week, and he sounded just fine. About two days later, we found out he didn’t make it. But there’s a thing about kids: They accept things a lot of the time better than adults. It was a big thrill [for them] that Ernest was on the phone. You think, wow, I hope if I’ve got two days left that I can get excited over a phone call.”