Twenty-seven years after granting the wish of a terminally ill 7-year-old, the Make-A-Wish Foundation on Tuesday made its 150,000th dream come true.
To celebrate the milestone, the charity has launched a new campaign called “Destination Joy,” presented by Lays brand potato chips. The campaign encourages people to give their money, time and talent to the organization and to help it fulfill its objective of granting a wish to every one of the 25,000 children diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses every year in the United States.
Currently, the foundation grants one wish every 41 minutes, but is able to fulfill the dreams of only about half of the children diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses every year.
As part of the “Destination Joy” drive, Lay’s is inviting consumers to share their own moment of joy online on its Web site. For each submission, the Make-A-Wish Foundation will receive $1, up to a maximum of $460,000, from the Lay’s brand. The “Share the Joy” program is the first effort as part of the multi-year partnership between the Lay’s brand and the world’s largest wish-granting organization.
Make-A-Wish President and CEO David Williams said he hopes “Destination Joy” also educates the public about the foundation’s mission, which extends to children who have life-threatening illnesses but are not necessarily dying.
“There is a common misconception about Make-A-Wish that it is only for kids with terminal illnesses,” he said. “Regardless of what happens with the child, it is important to remember that it is a joyful work to get the child to dream and to be a kid again.”
The Make-A-Wish Foundation has been inspiring dreams and giving hope since 1980, when a group of Arizona law enforcement officers banded together to make a dream come true for 7-year-old Christopher James Greicius, who was being treated for leukemia.
Chris dreamed of becoming a police officer and, after he took a turn for the worse, the officers went all out to have a custom-made Arizona Department of Public Safety trooper uniform made for him and arranged a ride in a department helicopter to headquarters as part of his special day. Chris passed away just a few days later.
Since then, countless volunteers and companies have helped make the Make-A-Wish Foundation a success. The Walt Disney Co has been a generous corporate sponsor, for example, helping to grant 40 percent of the wishes the organization fulfills each year. And more than 700 celebrities are involved each year in wish giving.
One father-son team has been responsible for granting a remarkable number of wishes over the past three years.
Paul Teutul Sr. and Paul Teutul Jr., who own and operate Orange County Choppers in Montgomery, N.Y., received the Chris Greicius Celebrity Wish Granter Of The Year Award in October 2005 for their work with the foundation.
They have so far granted 39 children’s wishes and put their talents building custom motorcycles to work by creating the “Make-A-Wish Chopper.” They invited dozens of sick children to attend the recent unveiling at their bike shop in upstate New York.
‘It's the least we can do'
Asked about their work on behalf of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Teutuls say, “It is about spreading good, making wishes come true and getting kids what they want. It is the least we can do.”
The good that the wish granters do for ill children cannot be overstated, said Pat McCarty, whose son Brendan was diagnosed with a tumor on his brain at 11.
“Initially, my first reaction was shock, then fear for my child, then anger – why him? It should be me,” he said.
McCarty of Chesapeake, Va., was frightened when he learned that a hospital worker had nominated Brendan for a wish, assuming that meant his son wouldn’t make it. But McCarty now credits Brendan’s wish being granted as a turning point in his son’s recovery and he is now a national board member of the foundation.
Brendan McCarty fell in love with trains at the age of 6, and his wish was to take a trip on the American Orient Express, the premier private passenger service in North America.
“It was a life-changing trip”, Pat McCarty said.
“It was as if a fog lifted and we were able to focus on our family and each other again and share joy,” he said. “It was a chance to reconnect and turn away from the needles and treatment.”
Five and a half years later there is no sign of growth in the inoperable brain tumor and 17 year old Brendan is living a full and active life – going to school, playing trumpet in the marching band and working as a cart attendant at a new Target store.
Brendan still has a passion for trains and has vivid memories of his Make-A-Wish voyage.
“The trip meant more than anything to me,” he said. “It changed how I felt about my tumor and helped me to think of the dream I always wanted to do.”