In the past, if I heard someone mention the Make-a-Wish foundation I would automatically think, “Oh, that’s the charity that sends kids to Disney!” After conducting my investigation, I am here to tell you that the organization does indeed do that sometimes, but so much more as well. Make-a-Wish brings a special experience to chronically ill children that has the potential to save their life. How exactly can a wish do that?
In times of extreme adversity, while facing life-threatening illnesses, the experience of a wish enriches the lives impacted with hope, strength, and joy. This wish experience is powerful enough to aid the child throughout their treatment period by giving them something to look forward to before and something to look back on as they once they return.
What exactly does it mean to make a wish come true?
On Friday November 3rd I arrived at the headquarters of Make-a-Wish for the Philadelphia, Susquehanna Valley, and Delaware chapter to talk to executive Molly Gatto in hopes to try to figure that out. Molly had been a volunteer for Make-a-Wish in hospitals for 10 years before she came an executive at the chapter for the greater Philadelphia area. Throughout my interview with Molly, I saw the passion she had for helping people, children in particular and about how everyone in their branch shares that passion mutually. She also told me amazing stories about the impact the foundation can have on people.
Throughout the fall season the foundation puts on a series of walks throughout their region called Walk-for-Wishes. The final one was only two days away, so I noticed immediately when I entered the office that the excitement was high. On my way out, Molly showed me around the office which was filled with materials for the event that upcoming Sunday. She introduced me to several of the other employees that were running around the office making sure everything would be ready for the event– they all had smiles on their faces.
I decided to attend the Walk-for-Wishes that weekend. It was a cold November morning in Wilmington, Delaware, but an overwhelming warmth ascended over Dupont Children’s Hospital as hundreds of individuals gathered. I was shocked by amount of people that came out early on a bitterly cold, cloudy morning in which heavy rain was forecasted for during the event.
Individuals greeted each other, many of whom appeared to already familiar with one another within the Make-a-Wish community. Many shared stories about their wish experience, the wish experience of a loved one, or how they have been touched by the organization in some way shape or form. The space is filled with love and there is a sense of unity and support between all. There was a ceremony before the walk that begins with a little girl coming on the microphone and sharing her experience of going to Disney World and what that meant to her family. She talked in a soft, shy voice about how she met all of her favorite princesses and giggled when she talked about how her brothers were happy because they got fast passes to all of the rides. Then a 14 year old girl named Caitlin was surprised by getting her wish of going to Hawaii granted right then and there. The crowd erupted in cheers and applause, many others have tears in their eyes, and Caitlin cannot contain her excitement. Her friends run over and give her hugs and her parents hug the Make-a-Wish coordinators.
While many of the stories shared were ones of hope, others were of reflection. Team Trotman was introduced as the top fundraising team, and during the presentation of their plaque the family got very emotional. The crowd fell silent, many others appeared to be emotional as well. The Trotman family had lost their daughter recently, however she received her wish in 2016. The family says in their fundraising page for the event, “A wish experience can truly change a child’s life. As a former wish family, we witnessed the impact on our child and we want to help more children have these special experiences.” The Trotman family is a perfect example that even in the heartbreaking cases where the child passes away, the family has memories of their child’s dream coming true and can receive some solace knowing that.
The walk commences through the beautiful Nemours Gardens on the grounds of the Dupont Children’s Hospital. Despite the forecast for a downpour, the sun shines through the clouds and there is not a drop of rain. Families walk hand in hand, arms linked, and a huge sense of community is established as we walk through the gardens. Children in wheelchairs smile as their loved ones push them along on the walk past a beautiful pond and a wide path woven through perfectly trimmed bushes and trees. It is clear to me at the end of the day why the Make-a-Wish Foundation is important to so many people.