Dylan wished to go to New Zealand. Christian wanted to meet his favorite rock band. Chase wished for a new bike, and Trenton hoped to be a football coach for a day.
Each year, the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Illinois grants over 750 wishes such as these to children with life-threatening medical conditions. Specially trained volunteers called wish granters work with each eligible child to discover his or her wish—not Mom’s or Dad’s or a best friend’s wish, noted Janet Bantz‑Glavin, the organization’s community relations manager.
The most memorable wishes, she said, are the ones in which children engage their imaginations and really understand the opportunity and power they have. Disney-related wishes are the most popular, making up nearly half of those granted by the organization. Other popular wishes include travel, shopping sprees, celebrity meet and greets, and events at which the child receives a gift such as a computer, horse or puppy, and a party to celebrate it.
All of the planning is done by Make-A-Wish staff or volunteers so wish children and their families can sit back and enjoy their time together without worrying about the details. The whole program is designed to enrich children’s lives with hope, strength and joy by giving back the power of choice.
Spina bifida prevented six-year-old Chase of Princeville from riding a bicycle, something he loved to do. Given the power to dream big, he wished for a bike with hand pedals that would allow him some freedom.
Dylan, an adventurous teen from Morton who was born without a pulmonary valve and has metabolic bone disease, wished to go to New Zealand. While there, he and his family went whitewater rafting and rappelling, and explored the set where the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit were filmed.
Christian, a five-year-old from Chillicothe who was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect at birth, met the Imagination Movers, a child-centered rock band, after a concert in Houston, Texas.
Sixteen-year-old Trenton from Mahomet, diagnosed with leukodystrophy at age three, wished to be a University of Illinois Fighting Illini football coach for a day. His wish was granted in October at the team’s homecoming game, where he was able to meet with team members and was escorted into Memorial Stadium by some of the Marching Illini band.
“Parents have said they can afford to take their family on a vacation,” noted Bantz-Glavin, “but it’s not really about that. It’s about the child getting to have this power of a wish.” She described children whose illnesses made them shy or embarrassed about their appearances, but who became more social and outgoing after their wishes were fulfilled. Others even seem to become medically better somehow, she said, prompting one referring doctor to say, “Doctors provide the medicine, and Make-A-Wish provides the magic.”
“When you read the stories,” Bantz-Glavin said, “you really start to understand…that [the wish is] not just something nice to have. There really is power in it that complements the medicine.”
The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Illinois’ ultimate goal is to reach every eligible child in the state. Each year, 1,085 kids are newly diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses, so more volunteers are needed to assist with everything from marketing to wish granting. For more information, contact Bantz-Glavin at [email protected] or (309) 637-1659, or visit wishes.org.
Wishes By the Numbers
- In 25 years, the Illinois chapter has granted wishes for more than 10,000 children.
- 755 wishes were fulfilled in FY 2010 alone.
- 1,500 volunteers and 40 staff members are an integral part of its success.
- The average wish expenditure is approximately $5,000.