Sunday, November 30, 2008

Making Wishes Come True

My sister, Judy, and her husband, Allan, volunteer for the Make-A-Wish foundation. She's been raving about the rewards for about a year now, so when she told me she had a message to send, I offered up this post :) From Judy....

Many people tell me that they could never be a wish granter. I say that I can't imagine not being one. How could anyone look at a face like Saniyah's and not want to help make wishes like hers come true?
Saniyah (her family lovingly refers to her as Noodles) is our newest "Wish Child." Noodles is 3 years old, and she has a progressive brain tumor. She is also recovering from a stroke and has many people working with her to regain her speech and cognitive skills. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me explain...

Recently becoming empty-nesters, my husband and I found ourselves with some extra time on our hands. Some extra space in our hearts surfaced as well. We decided that volunteering at various charities wasn't really as rewarding as we thought it would be. We didn't actually get to experience first-hand the value that we were adding, and seldom did we ever meet any of the people we were helping. There was just something missing. Then I looked in to Make-A-Wish, and everything changed. A simple email and a phone call was all it took to get started. We then attended training, and now we are wish granters (Wish Angels) for Make-A-Wish.

In our training, we learned that one of the wishes that kids sometimes choose is a shopping spree. One little 8-year-old girl's wish was to go on a shopping spree at the corner gas station by her home. She had never been to a big store! She ended up going on a huge shopping spree at Wal-mart. Just imagine what a difference this made in her life!!!

I started my MAW journey by assisting another volunteer on a wish visit. This is the first step in the wish process. I went to Ronald McDonald house to meet a little 3-year-old girl, her Dad, and Grandmother from Texas. Our mission was to get to know the family and, more importantly, the little girl and to hopefully walk away with an idea of what her one wish would be. Mia had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. Mia seemed like such a normal, happy, healthy child, yet she was a very sick little girl. She didn't want to talk to us at all. She was probably so tired of strangers at the hospital, etc. Anyway, at one point, the Dad asked me how I would feel if this were my little girl and was given the news of her illness. I told him I didn't know how he felt but that I would pray for Mia and the rest of his family. The family didn't make a decision on Mia's wish that day. When we finished our visit I went to my car and had a good long cry. I called my husband and told him that I didn't think I could handle being a wish granter. It was so sad to just imagine what they were all going through.

When I got home my husband and I watched a movie. We then got in to bed and I grabbed a Guidepost magazine to read a bit before going to sleep. On the cover was an actress who looked like the one the movie we had just seen. To confirm, I jumped out of bed and looked at the movie box. It was the same actress; Marcia Harden. I went back to the magazine and read the story titled "My Best Role Ever". The story was about how Marcia dressed up like Snow White for a little girl's wish through Make-A-Wish! I couldn't hold the tears back. I told my husband that I thought I was actually meant to be a wish granter.

A few weeks later, I met with a 17-year-old boy and his parents at Target House. They were staying there while Dillan received medical treatment. Like the other visit, our mission was to get to know him and ask the ultimate question. "If you could have one wish, what would it be". I started out by asking him what he had been diagnosed with. He replied "AML, but you probably don't know what that is". I replied simply "Yes, actually, I do". Little did he know, my Dad had passed away from AML (Acute Myelogenous Leukemia) exactly 3 years ago to the day. Coincidence? I don't think so! Note: Dillan is currently on the road to recovery and looking forward to his wish, which will take place early next year, at Six Flags in CA.

Since then, my husband and I have worked as a wish team. We have helped make another wish come true for a 16 year old boy, and we are currently wish angels for Noodles. Her parents haven't decided on their daughter's wish, but we are looking forward to being a part of helping to make her wish come true.

We have learned to look past the machines and medical equipment. We look instead into the eyes of these kids and their families and focus on the difference that we can make and the joy we can bring to their lives. During a wish experience, joy eclipses illness- and that's why we are there; to help give back what illness sometimes takes away: Hope. Strength. Joy. It helps children forget about being sick. It reminds them to be kids; to laugh out loud, and it inspires them to keep making plans for the future. Without volunteers, wishes and dreams will go unanswered, and that I can't live with.

Here are some ways you can help make a difference. I assure you, being a volunteer will make a big difference in your life, too!

1. Refer a family/child- Did you know that not all wish children are terminally ill? If you know of a child who you think might be eligible, recommend that they visit a MAW website for guidelines and eligibility or suggest that they ask their child's doctor for more information.

2. Become a wish granter in your area. It is more rewarding than words can express. You work around your own schedule. It's very flexible, not labor intensive, just a labor of love. Share the power of a wish. Recruit a friend to work with you as a wish granting team. It is a fantastic way to make a relationship even stronger.

3. Donate a small item (new, please) for the Wish Closet. Examples: a book, barbie, truck, etc. These items are used by wish granters like us as an ice breaker when we first meet the children.

4. Donate your frequent flier miles, building materials, new electronics, etc.

5. Donate your time and talents. i.e.: Do you have painting skills, remodeling skills,decorating talents? Lots of kids wish to have a their bedrooms remodeled. Help is needed to make these remodeling projects a success.

6. Become a volunteer in your area.. They often need help filing, making phone calls, sealing envelopes, etc.... You may even be able to do some things from home.

7. Visit to learn about more ways to help an also locate your local MAW chapter.

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