there is a Santa Claus!
Make-A-Wish come true this holiday season
Sara doesn't just believe there is a Santa Claus — she knows it. She's met him and has seen firsthand the magical work he and his little elves do, not just at Christmas time, but all year long.
During this giving time of year, there’s nothing more magical than seeing a child’s face light up when they open that one special toy they’ve wanted all year. Brightening children’s faces is what Make-A-Wish strives to do all year round.
“We come into their lives when they’re not sure what direction it’s going. And we say, dream big. If you could have anything, go anywhere, be anyone, meet anyone, what would it be? And then we strive to make that wish they never thought was possible come true to give them strength and hope for the future so they have a more positive outlook,” says Scott Crews, Development Director for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Central and South Texas.
I was a Make-A-Wish volunteer when I first moved to Texas. I went through training and thought it was an honor to be able to call myself a "wish granter." I'd liken it to being one of Santa's little elves. I didn't make presents per se, but I did wrap and deliver some, getting a chance to see the joy they brought children. I was able to sit down with kids and families whose worlds had often been turned upside down by illness, to help the children decide on what their one most heartfelt wish was and then help make sure it was fulfilled.
Sara, who was diagnosed with Burkitt’s Lymphoma, was just four years old when her wish to meet the man in the red velvet suit was granted. She told her wish granters she wanted to meet Santa, and that she hoped to have a question answered: she’d always wondered if Santa’s house had stairs. Make-A-Wish arranged for Sara to go to Santa’s Workshop at the North Pole, NY. There, she rode a dog sled, played reindeer games, visited Santa’s workshop and found out Santa’s house is, in fact, one story. He also filled her in on a few secrets about how reindeer fly and what makes Rudolph’s nose glow so bright. Sara is now seven years old, in good health and still holds a special place in her heart for jolly old St. Nick.
Many people mistakenly think that the kids Make-A-Wish helps won't get better. The fact is, 70-80 percent of them go on to live fulfilling lives; the wish is not an ending. “The wish is often times a beginning to the recovery process and the treatment process,” Crews says.
With chapters across the country, Make-A-Wish has granted more than 250,000 wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions. The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Central and South Texas serves 40 counties and fulfills more than 225 wishes every year.
Crews says the non-profit’s work is about more than arranging for the kids to meet their idols or go on a shopping spree or go to Disney World. He says it’s about building stronger families and helping them heal.
“What I think is really neat about the wish process is they bring the family back together. It isn’t just about the child. You know the parents sometimes are split up when one goes to the hospital and one takes care of the siblings. The siblings give up extra curricular activities. The wish brings everyone back together. They’re all part of it.”
Make-A-Wish recently commissioned a survey or more than 2,000 participants and volunteers to explore the impact having wishes granted has on the children and their families. Many parents said they saw an increase in their child’s emotional strength as well as their willingness to follow treatment plans. And 97 percent of parents surveyed said the wish experience made their families stronger and gave them a chance to be a "normal" family again.
A survey of doctors about how having a wish granted affects a child’s treatment and recovery showed similar results. Crews says: “During the treatment period [the kids] have a better outlook and are more willing to do these things, because they’ve either gone through the wish experience and had something they never thought was possible and have a better outlook, or it’s that dangling carrot out there. They really want this wish and will do whatever they have to to get through it. It causes them to focus in a different way, as opposed to being really down about their situation.”
Clearly, the work Make-A-Wish does goes well beyond giving the kids one special day or one special item. It gives children and their families hope, something to look forward to, and great memories to get them through some of the toughest times of their lives. It makes children believe that anything is possible and it makes some, like Sara, believe in Santa Claus for the rest of their lives.
Ty (now nine) has 50 doctors treating multiple conditions. His one heartfelt wish was to meet a Volcanologist. He travelled with his family to Hawaii to explore volcanoes and swim with manta rays:
Make-A-Wish depends on the generosity of donors and volunteers to make children’s dreams come true. To learn how you can make a cash donation, a product or service donation or to volunteer your time, visit http://cstx.wish.org