As a Pediatrician I have been aware of the amazing work of the Make-A-Wish Foundation for many years. It was not until I had the opportunity to meet with a representative from the Western New York chapter of the organization and then the mother of a Wish Kid that many of my preconceived notions were put into perspective. Let’s start by clearing up some of the common misconceptions corrected for me during this process.
- ANYONE can make a referral to Make-A-Wish! This includes medical professionals, family members, or patients themselves. There is a one page online application that can be filled out anytime.
- Wishes are not exclusively granted to children with cancer diagnoses. Any life-threatening diagnosis including, but not limited to, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, congenital heart disease, tracheotomy-dependent breathing, and cancer diagnoses are considered for eligibility by the medical advisory board.
- There is no menu of possible wishes for children to choose from. They may literally choose ANYTHING!! While many Wish Kids choose to go to Disney World, there are countless others who wish to attend a sporting event, become a soldier, or travel to far-off places. The sky and their imaginations are the limit!
- Every child who is granted a wish gets just one, but the team at Make-A-Wish ensures they go all out to guarantee the experience is one that will always be cherished. This includes considering every detail from how to announce to the child that they have been selected to have their wish granted to airport transportation, food during the trip, and even some souvenirs from parents and siblings along for the trip!
- As a national organization it is easy to imagine the mounting costs of keeping such good work going. Fortunately, there are countless volunteers who take time to work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which makes it possible for $0.83 of every $1.00 donated to be put directly toward wishes! I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that money raised locally remains here to grant local wishes. Annually, children in our area are granted 65-70 wishes!
In addition to clearing up my misconceptions about the Make-A-Wish Foundation, I was fortunate enough to meet Lynn Briggs, who’s son Aidan was a Wish Kid in 2016. During our sit down over coffee, Lynn beamed with excitement when discussing her experiences with Make-A-Wish. Lynn’s son was born with a congenital heart disease known as Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). Like many families in this position, the Briggs were accustomed to a regular regimen of specialist appointments, varied medications, and the threat that even a basic cold could make Aidan quite ill. The Briggs family was so used to this way of life, they did not imagine Aidan was “sick enough” to be a Wish Kid. Even with HLHS, Aidan has grown into an amazing young man who loves baseball, playing drums, and who wants to be a professional sports caster when he grows up.
When Aidan’s father filled out the online application, the family was unsure if he would qualify. Lynn described eloquently the sense of recognition of how tough their lives could be as they completed the application and included the names of eight doctors Aidan sees on a regular basis. The Briggs were not looking for a trophy or a parade for raising a son with HLHS, but the community of families in similar circumstances that they were able to meet as part of the Wish experience has been a welcomed addition to their lives.
The process of having a wish granted, as described by Lynn, sounds fabulous. Before the wish granters even came to the house to meet Aidan, they called and spoke with his parents to learn more about his interests. This meant they were able to show up with Baltimore Ravens and Oriels paraphernalia for Aidan at the first meeting. After some consideration, Aidan chose the MLB All Star Game as his desired wish. It would take months before the family heard back from the Foundation as to whether or not his wish would be granted. Aidan was told his wish was granted after being “randomly chosen” to throw out the first pitch at a Rochester Red Wings game. The entire family was overjoyed for the opportunity to share in Aidan’s wish and traveled to the MLB All Star Game in July 2016 in San Diego, California.
As Lynn tells the story of the family’s experiences traveling to San Diego and the thoughtfulness of each part of the Wish, she is visibly moved. The Wish was an opportunity for Aidan to have a dream fulfilled, but it was also a chance for the Briggs family to celebrate the fabulous young man they have raised. Since returning from the trip this past summer, the Briggs family is committed to telling people about their experience with Make-A-Wish and helping to make sure other families are able to share in a similar once in a lifetime Wish.
It was a pleasure for me to meet Lynn and other representatives from the Western New York Chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Kids Thrive 585, Inc is proud to connect with and support the incredible efforts of this organization. Please feel free to refer a child you may think is eligible for a wish through their website and consider making a donation so that more children like Aidan, and their families can have a wish granted.