The Amazing Make-A-Wish Foundation

I was reading the Philadelphia Inquirer today, and a story about a local boy’s dream to deliver a weather forecast on the Weather Channel and meet his hero, weatherman Jim Cantore, caught my attention.

11-year old Ryland Mishura from New Jersey, has a rare genetic disorder called isovaleric acidemia, and his mom had sent an application to the Make-A-Wish foundation, noting that Ryland’s wish was to deliver a weather forecast before a national audience. Ryland has been watching the Weather Channel every day since he was 7, and often narrates the forecast from his mom’s smartphone in the style of a weather professional. While Ryan was at the Weather Channel studios in Atlanta, he even submitted a resume for a meteorological position!


It was a heartwarming story, and made me think about the other times I’ve heard about the good work of the Make-A-Wish foundation. While I knew the basic idea behind the foundation, I really didn’t know much about how it works, so I decided to investigate.

From the foundation’s web site, here is a description of its mission:

Wishes are more than just a nice thing. A wish experience can be a game-changer for a child with a life-threatening medical condition. This one belief guides us in everything we do at Make-A-Wish®. It inspires us to grant wishes that change the lives of the kids we serve. It compels us to be creative in exceeding the expectations of every wish kid. It drives us to make our donated resources go as far as possible. Most of all, it’s the founding principle of our vision to grant the wish of every eligible child. Wishes are more than just a nice thing. And they are far more than gifts, or singular events in time. Wishes impact everyone involved – wish kids, volunteers, donors, sponsors, medical professionals and communities. The impact varies. For wish kids, just the act of making their wish come true can give them the courage to comply with their medical treatments. Parents might finally feel like they can be optimistic. And still others might realize all they have to offer the world through volunteer work or philanthropy. Whatever the odds, whatever the obstacles … wishes find a way to make the world better.

Make-A-Wish got its start in the spring of 1980. 7-year-old Christopher James Greicius  was being treated for leukemia. He aspired to be a police officer. U.S. Customs Officer Tommy Austin befriended Chris and worked with officers at the Arizona Department of Public Safety to plan an experience to lift Greicius’ spirits. Chris spent the day as a police officer, rode in a police helicopter, received a custom-tailored police uniform, and was sworn in as the first honorary Public Safety patrolman in state history. Greicius died soon after, but his wish became inspiration for the Make-A-Wish wish-granting organization.

Today, tens of thousands of volunteers, donors and supporters advance the Make-A-Wish®vision to grant the wish of every child diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition. In the United States and its territories, on average, a wish is granted every 40 minutes. To date, more than 180,000 wishes have been granted. The average cost to fulfill a wish is slightly over $10,000, and the family is not responsible for any of the costs.

There is a four-step process involved in granting a wish:

  • Step 1: Referral – MAW relies on medical professionals, parents and children themselves for referrals. Children who have reached the age of 2½ and are under the age of 18 at the time of referral – and have not received a wish from another wish-granting organization – may be eligible for a wish.
  • Step 2: Medical Eligibility – MAW determines a child’s medical eligibility with the help of the treating physician. To receive a wish, the child must be diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition
  • Step 3: The Wish – MAW sends one of its wish teams to learn the child’s one true wish. These committed volunteers connect with wish children, awaken their imaginations and help them envision an experience with the power to change lives.
  • Step 4: Creating Joy – MAW’s wish granters create an unforgettable experience driven by the child’s creativity. They strive to personalize each wish and to make it match the wish kid’s idea of a perfect day.

Most wishes involve travel. In fact, of the 14,000 unique wishes Make-A-Wish® grants each year, 10,000 of them involve a trip somewhere. Here is a listing of the top 10 destinations requested:

  1. Orlando – Just last year, Disney World granted its 100,000th wish.
  2. Hawaii
  3. Los Angeles
  4. The Caribbean
  5. New York City
  6. San Diego
  7. France
  8. Italy
  9. Australia
  10. Alaska

Many other wishes involve wanting to meet a celebrity. Here is a listing of the most “givingest” celebrities:

  1. John Cena, professional wrestler. In a little more than 10 years of work with the foundation, Cena has nearly doubled the efforts of all other generous celebrity givers. He recently granted his 500th wish.
  2. Michael Jordan, basketball player
  3. Jeff Gordon, race car driver
  4. Hulk Hogan, professional wrestler
  5. Dale Earnhardt, race car driver
  6. Justin Bieber, singer

So  a big thank you to the many people involved with Make-A-Wish. It is a remarkable organization, bringing hopes and smiles to those who need them the most.

P.S. While searching around Google for info about Make-A-Wish, I did see this funny headline from The Onion:

“Child Bankrupts Make-A-Wish Foundation With Wish For Unlimited Wishes”

Let’s hope that never happens…

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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