Make-A-Wish

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Children are our future. They are the foundation of a new generation, 

and the joy of today. Yet sometimes it is those purest of souls that are dealt 

the most difficult hand. That’s where Make-A-Wish® steps in—as a 

beacon of hope in the darkest of times. 

It all started with Chris Greicius: a little boy who was diagnosed with childhood leukemia. At seven years old, he always wanted to be in law enforcement. Single mom Linda Pauling, knowing her son would never see that dream come to fruition, asked a few of her local law enforcement friends to help make Chris’ wish come true—they did so, in a big way. Sadly, Chris passed away about a week later. A few weeks after that, Linda and a few others involved started Make-A-Wish with less than $100 between all of them in 1980. 

Since that time, 450,000 wishes have been granted globally and more than 300,000 nationally. Although the foundation began by serving children who were terminal, 75 percent of “wish children” survive and thrive today—many serve the mission as volunteers or staff.

Granting a wish starts with a referral. Approximately 60 percent of children are referred to Make-A-Wish by someone on their medical team, but referrals also come from their families or the child themselves. Once referred, there are steps to determine eligibility. Once confirmed eligible, Make-A-Wish reaches out—that’s when the magic begins. 

Many of the children will start with a visit to the Wishing Place in Sacramento’s headquarters—this chapter is one of only five who have a Wishing Place or a dedicated building to start the wish journey. But children are often visited in their homes, too. The wish child chooses a wish in each of the four categories: they wish to go, be, have, or meet at this initial visit. At the end of that visit, the four wishes are written on a scroll. That scroll will be either dropped in the Wishing Well (at the Wishing Place) or taken directly to the Wish Fairies (who determine which wish will be granted). Part of the magic comes from not knowing—this purposeful journey, of about nine months (depending on the wish), has proven to be healing for the child as they anticipate their one true wish.

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Make-A-Wish Northeastern & Central California and Northern Nevada is one of 60 Make-A-Wish chapters nationwide. The Central California chapter realigned with the Northeastern California and Northern Nevada chapter to form the Northeastern & Central California and Northern Nevada chapter. “What folks need to know, however, is although we have a huge chapter, all money raised locally stays in that area to grant wishes to children in that area with critical illnesses,” clarified Michele Sanders, Vice President of Communications & Outreach.

Covering 45 counties in California and Nevada, it is one of the largest geographically, and its outreach certainly reflects that force: they are on target to grant 400 wishes this year, and another 125 in Central California. There are, however, more than 200 children locally who are waiting for their wish—this is why local funding is critical. 

“In our chapter, more than 600 children are referred. We are fortunate in that every child referred and who is eligible for a wish will receive a wish. We do not want these children to have to wait too long for a wish, so it is imperative that we have a steady stream of funding,” Sanders explained.

The Gala of Wishes is Make-A-Wish’s signature event, held annually in June. An extraordinary night (that takes place in Fresno), it is comprised of good friends, an elegant dinner, a unique live auction, and a wish is revealed live at the event to a local Central Valley child.

Valley Vines & Wishes is a wine, beer, spirits, and culinary tasting mixed with shopping. Held at the beautiful North Pointe Shopping Center in late September, this unique event has been deemed the summer party you always wanted to throw but didn’t have time to!

The 9th Annual Michelangelo’s Charity Golf Tournament will be held at Riverside Golf Course this October, with a post-tournament meal at Michelangelo’s Pizzeria in Clovis.

The Abreu Vineyards Trophy Cup Sprint car race, sponsored by Rudeen Racing, is in its 26th year and will be also be held mid in October at Tulare’s Thunderbowl Raceway.

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At the Wishes & Dreams dinner, a grand silent auction and live auction will be held next April in Merced. This event is completely run by loyal volunteers and wish ambassadors.

In addition to these events, Make-A-Wish also has a program known as Adopt-A-Wish®. Its supporting partners have the power to grant a wish for a deserving child and family from the community with a gift of $7,500 or more. “The Adopt-A-Wish program allows families or companies to select a child from their geographic area and provides these partners with a variety of ways that they can become engaged and witness the impact of their generosity firsthand,” said Kathleen Price, Vice President of Development, Central California. “The impact of a wish not only positively effects the wish child, but it leaves a lasting impression on the donor that made that child’s wish possible.”

In terms of volunteers, more than 400 officially serve this chapter, but if you consider the number of individual, corporate, and community supporters and their respective families, friends, and employees there are thousands. “A number we hear often is for every wish granted, 100 people are impacted,” Sanders revealed. “Considering we have granted 8,500 in our chapter (since it was formed in 1983), that’s potentially 850,000 people who have been impacted by a wish.”

Senior Development Manager Cortney Snapp understands that domino effect on a personal level. “I hold the title of Wish Auntie a tad closer than my career title. My nephew Chase was two and a half when he was diagnosed with blood cancer and had his wish experience at five years old.” This was her first interaction with Make-A-Wish. Living through seeing her first nephew endure all the poking and medications and then thriving through his wish experience caused her to think intently about what other families might be going through—nine years ago, she began her journey as a Make-A-Wish employee. Today, her nephew Chase is a happy, healthy 16-year-old, and Snapp is helping to lead Make-A-Wish in its desire to continually exceed its phenomenal work. 

Her passion for and devotion to Make-A-Wish is exactly the kind of attitude that can’t help but inspire children and adults alike to feel empowered to overcome adversity. “Seeing the generosity of others brings out the best in me. I have seen employees of our Adopt-A-Wish partner companies changed forever because of their experience helping a local family. I have seen wish families, who have been through the worst of the worst, have a wish experience that they will never forget. Some people ask if my job is rewarding—I don’t know that it’s rewarding as much as it’s an honor and a privilege to work with amazing community partners and wish families.”

CVLUX Magazine wishes to contribute to this empowerment by selecting Make-A-Wish Northeastern & Central California and Northern Nevada as the beneficiary of the 2020 Luxury Awards, which will be held on the 24th of January in Fresno.