Make-A-Wish Foundation Provides Joy to Children, Families, and Volunteers

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by Colleen Steele |

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In last week’s column, I shared how the Make-A-Wish Foundation granted my son Cullen’s prodigious wish to meet President George W. Bush in 2008.

To be on the receiving end of this amazing nonprofit organization is extraordinary. The foundation creates adventures that far exceed expectations.

To be on the giving end is equally joyous.

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From left, Cullen, Brian, Colleen, and Aidan Steele at the 2009 “Walk For Wishes” in Washington state. (Courtesy of Colleen Steele)

In August 2009, my family organized a team of 20 people to participate in the Make-A-Wish Foundation fundraiser “Walk For Wishes.” “Cullen’s Crew” raised more than $9,000 and was the top fundraising team for that event. It felt good to pay it forward.

A child’s wish should not focus on the illness, but it can be a heartwarming way to spread awareness. Cullen’s wish story began with acknowledging his battle with pulmonary hypertension (PH), and led to his journey to Washington, D.C., to meet the president of the United States. The combination of PH awareness and Cullen’s wish story contributed to our team’s success in the fundraising walk.

Jeannette Tarcha, vice president of communications and marketing at Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington, said there are volunteer opportunities in every community. These include being a wish granter, office volunteer, translator, fundraiser, speaker, or special events volunteer. Your local office can provide more information.

Cullen’s wish granters, Debbie Hanan and Michelle McLendon, acknowledged that volunteering with the foundation made a difference in their own lives.

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Cullen and wish granter Debbie Hanan at a fundraiser. (Photo by Colleen Steele)

Hanan started as a volunteer in 1991. She was searching for a way to give back to her community, and the foundation needed volunteers. She retired as a wish granter in 2013, but the happy memories followed her into the next chapter of her life.

“In the midst of the most extreme circumstances, a child would look into my eyes with hope, joy, and enthusiasm as they looked forward to their wish experience,” Hanan said. “They taught me to focus on the present and not to project on things I can’t control. These children are my heroes and the lessons they shared I applied in my professional and personal interactions.”

Hanan added that Make-A-Wish Foundation involves more than facilitating a wish for a child. She learned that the power of a wish brings joy and affirmation to the child. “Typically, in a world where all decisions are made on behalf of a child by their responsible family members, the ability for a child to have the sole decision to identify a wish that will bring them joy is truly empowering.”

McLendon, who has always loved volunteering and working with children, said the foundation appealed to her because, “Who wouldn’t want to be a wish granter?”

She said it warmed her heart every time she was given the opportunity to provide hope to families experiencing dark and difficult times. “Make-A-Wish gives wish kids and their families a moment of time where they don’t have to worry about organizing anything and just ‘be.’ If even for just one weekend, it’s one weekend that could impact them for a lifetime.”

Check out your local Make-A-Wish chapter for volunteer opportunities. To refer a child for a wish, visit the national website.


Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


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