The Power of a Wish

June 7, 2010
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We’ve all wished upon stars when we were little. I wish I was a princess, I wish I had a dog. But some children’s lives are so uncertain the biggest hope is to make it through another day, and biggest wish to live like a “normal” child just once. That’s where the Make-A-Wish Foundation comes in.

Make-A-Wish is a children’s foundation that grants wishes to children with life-threatening diseases. The first wish was in 1980 when a U.S. customs officer Tommy Austen became friends with Christopher James Greicus and his family. Seven year old Chris was being treated for leukemia, and had always dreamed of becoming a police officer. Austen called Ron Cox-an Arizona Department of Public Safety Officer- and they planned a day for Chris’ dream to come true.

In a department helicopter, on April 29th 1980, Austen and DPS personnel gave Chris a tour of the city, and when they flew back to headquarters three cruisers, and a motorcycle officer were waiting to welcome Chris. He then met with the DPS command staff where he was sworn in as the first honorary DPS Patrolman in the states’ history.

Ron Cox called John’s Uniforms, who agreed to make a custom DPS uniform for Chris. They worked all through the night to get it finished. On May 1st Chris was presented with his uniform. The officers also arranged a motorcycle proficiency test so Chris could earn wings to pin on his custom uniform. Of course, with the help of his battery-powered motorcycle, he easily passed.

Chris was admitted into the hospital again on May 2nd . He asked to have the room arranged so he could always be able to see his uniform, motorcycle helmet, and his “Smoky Bear” campaign hat.

Unfortunately, Chris passed away the next day. But before he did he got to see his life long dream-of seven years- come true.

The founders of the foundation are Frank Schankwitz (who presented Chris with his wings and hat), Linda Bergandahl-Pauling and Scott Stahl. Their first donation was $15 from a grocery store owner, and in November 1980 they received their first tax exempt status as a non-profit organization, and that’s when they began fundraising. By March 1981 they raised enough money ($2,000) for another wish. In 1982 the Make-A-Wish Foundation had granted eight wishes to children from Phoenix and caught the attention of NBC Magazine. On May 13, 1983 the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America was officially established.

Since 1980 they now have nearly 25,000 volunteers helping them to grant these children’s wishes. They volunteer as wish-granters, fundraisers, help with special events, as well as many other jobs. For nearly thirty years their mission has remained the same, to let these fatally ill children feel the “power of a wish”. “We grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.” says the president.

As of Monday June 7th 2010, they had granted 194,604 wishes. But they grant a wish every forty minutes so that number has probably increased since then. There are four steps to getting a wish granted.

Step One-Refer A Child: Make-A-Wish relies on parents, children and their medical professionals for these referrals. To be eligible, the child must have reached age 2 and a ½ and not be over 18 at the time of their referral. Also, they cannot have had a wish previously granted with Make-A-Wish or another wish granting organization.

Step Two-Medical Eligibility: With the help of the child’s physician they determine eligibility. For a child to be eligible they must be diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition “i.e. a progressive, degenerative or malignant condition that has put the child’s life in jeopardy.”

Step Three-Finding the True Wish: The wish-granters are sent to learn the child’s “true wish”. These volunteers have to connect with the “wish child” and help search their mind for a wish that will inspire and bring them joy.

Step Four-Creating Joy: These wish-granters help to create an unforgettable experience for the child. This inspires the lives of the children and their family, and many times a whole community.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation has many chapters throughout the nation, several locally. I am going to volunteer for the Westchester Chapter. I’ll also be joining the “Alumni Committee”, something that was first thought of by the Westchester Chapter, but is now being picked up by many others.

The Alumni Committee is a group of former “wish children”-people who have had their wishes granted and are still here today to tell their story. They’re known as “Wish Alumnus”. The Committee meets about once a month, where they can meet other people who have had their wishes granted and they can talk about their experiences in life with their medical conditions, as well as help the foundation with volunteer work.

This is most of the reason I’m so passionate about volunteering for them. I got my wish granted by them and wanted to give back. I was only 3 and a ½ when I got my wish granted, so I don’t remember much at all. My wish was to meet Snow White. The foundation organized a trip to Disney World for my family and I. My mom’s told me that my wish-granter noticed I liked balloons and filled our limousine to the airport with them. The only part I remember-with no doubt the best part to me- was watching the Maine Street Parade and Snow White coming out of the parade to give me a hug and kiss.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation is a terrific organization, and everyone who works or volunteers there is there to make sure these children get their wishes granted. But they don’t just do what the child asks, they do much more. I asked to meet Snow White and they easily could’ve had someone dress up as her and come to my house, but instead they organized a trip to Disney, equipped with limousine to and from the airport, a condo to stay in, and one of the most memorable experiences of my life-meeting Snow White. Their mission is one of the most admirable, because these children may not even live to age ten, and they deserve to experience life without the hindrance of their medical condition at least once.

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