She doesn't wear a fairy costume or carry a magic wand, but for many children who don't have a lot to begin with, she might just be their fairy godmother. Danielle Gletow is the founder and executive director of One Simple Wish, a Trenton, N.J., charity that fulfills wishes for foster children in 44 states. The wishes can be big, like horseback riding lessons, or small and simple like a backpack or shampoo.
"For kids in foster care, there’s sometimes not a person to come home to ask for soccer cleats so that they can try out for soccer at school," Gletow said.
The children are asking for things like bicycles, skateboards, prom tickets, and gymnastic lessons, things that most would consider normal childhood requests and activities, yet they have no one to provide them.
That’s where One Simple Wish fills the void, matching wishes from children, caseworkers and foster parents with donations from individuals and corporate donors.
“As a mom, I do everything-- everything I can for my kids," said Gletow, a mother of two who adopted her daughter Mia four years ago after spending two years as her foster parent. "I can't imagine them coming home and not feeling comfortable asking me for something that they wanted to try or [not] expecting that they were gonna get a birthday present...But I am glad that we have our program that can at least provide them with some happy memories."
For 14-year-old Blessing Williams, who has been in the foster care system for more than a decade, the wish was dance lessons.
"Just thought of it as something that ... I can come to and not worry about anything else that's going on in my life and I could just have fun," she said.
On a recent Friday afternoon, her wish was fulfilled. With the beat of hip-hop music in the background and a grin on her face, Blessing glided across the floor as part of a class at the Watson-Johnson Dance Theatre. Her wish was donated by 15-year-old Cassidy Mack, who was also a foster child before finding a forever family.
But just as One Simple Wish continues to grow, the need for additional support grows too.
The latest government estimates say there are more than 450,000 children in foster care. That’s a lot of trumpet lessons, yearbook pictures and toothbrushes that need to be provided. Gletow says it comes down to something so simple, one person's generosity to help another.
“As much as we’ve been growing, and our reach has been expanding, the core of our mission hasn’t changed, it’s about one child. I love that that’s resonated with people. They can come to our site, www.onesimplewish.org and they can make change for one individual and that’s what it's all about.”