Make-A-Wish for kid’s sake

By Lynn Rogers

Remember when you were a kid, and the most important things on your mind were lemon twists, G.I. Joe and swapping bologna sandwiches?

As I’m now a “grownup” (well, sort of anyway), I can look back and laugh on those “Wonder Years.”

But childhood is not all sugar and spice and everything nice for every child. Some children find it difficult to laugh. Some children live day to day knowing that they are dying.

While “normal” children wish for such things as Baby Alive dolls and Nintendo sets, terminally-ill children often wish to make it through the next day. Some don’t think they will ever be fortunate enough to be granted a wish, considering the enormous medical expenses their parents endure.

That’s where the Make-A-Wish Foundation comes in.

Founded in 1984, the Chicago chapter of the Foundation exists to grant wishes of terminally-ill children, aged two and a half to 18. There are only two full-time staff members, but over 350 volunteers.

“It has made me appreciate what I have compared to these people,” says Trish Williams, one of the full-time employees of Make-a-Wish. “Now, I tell everyone I don’t have a problem in te world.”

Williams related touching stories about these ill children. Stories that made me too, rethink my everyday complaints.

Amanda was a bright little girl, but paralyzed vocal cords left her unable to talk. She had her own system of sign language, and through that she said her wish was to meet Mickey Mouse.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation sent little Amanda to Disneyworld to meet her idol. Since Mickey does not communicate verbally, the two spoke in Amanda’s own sign language and she left Disneyworld happier than anyone had seen her in a long time, Williams said.

Another little girl didn’t want to spend any money on herself, so the Foundation sent her on a shopping spree in Chicago’s Water Tower Place, where she bought gifts for each family member. After discovering the unselfish child had always yearned for a canopy bed, the Foundation had one waiting for her when she came home from the mall.

“The kids are special because of their illness and the way they cope with it – they just want to be normal kids. People tend to patronize them and it frustrates them,” she explained.

What Williams said blew away many of the stereotypes I had of terminally-ill children. I don’t know, I just always thought of them lying frail and frightened in some hospital cubicle. These children and their families have an extraordinary amount of courage.

And the number of people that give their time! 350 people take hours out from their packed schedules to make a difference. They forego aerobics, jogging and their car phones to help make the world a little brighter for kids who won’t ever have the time for those type of activities.

We should learn something from all these people, partly because most of us were fortunate enough to have a healthy childhood. And many of us will have children of our own someday (frightening as that thought may be).

As Williams says, “We do our work here so they can be a normal family…even if it’s something small, we feel we have completed our mission.”