Cindy Woods, Ross Vezin and Peggy Medaglia
Cushioned by soft green grass, gazing up at the dimming sky, I watched and waited. There it was! "Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight. Wish I may, wish I might! Have this wish I wish tonight!"
Through stars, birthday candles, dandelions, Santa, and wishbones, we express our earnest desires, wishing they come true. Since its inception in1980, Make A Wish America has touched the lives of thousands of ill children by miraculously fulfilling their wishes. The organization has granted more than 220,000 wishes in the United States and its territories, averaging one every 38 minutes!
Russell Smith, President and CEO of South Carolina Make A Wish Foundation for the last 15 years, graciously enlightened me about this amazing organization. "We have always been able to grant the wishes requested," he said proudly from his Greenville, SC home. "Sixty-five percent of the children want to go to Disney. The wishes are as unique as the children, and fortunately, we've been able to fulfill them all, never turning one away."
The light in eight-year-old Leo Vannoni's eyes rivaled the evening stars, as he was finally strong enough to enjoy his long-awaited Disney visit. "Time is of the essence for these children," emphasized Cindy Woods, Make A Wish regional coordinator. "Leo's school mates worked tirelessly to raise $6,000 for Leo's trip. Kids helping kids is the greatest, and they are so creative and eager to help. Corporate sponsors Zaxby's, TD Bank and Applebee's were most generous and pleased that all funds raised in South Carolina remain in South Carolina. All of our applicants are battling life-threatening diseases, and their health situation changes daily. It's horrible how these children suffer, how difficult it is to explain to them what's happening. There are so many adult charities, and I simply felt a need to work with our little soldiers," she smiled. "It's wonderful to make their wish come true, if only for a day!"
A very memorable day for Ross Vezin and Peggy Medaglia, also Make A Wish Regional Coordinators, was fulfilling a very simple wish. "One little boy, who was nearly blind, asked only to have his room redecorated so he could move around better in it," recalled Ross, City of Beaufort firefighter, who has a passion for children. "He could only see reflections, so we installed lots of mirrors, railings to guide him and many vibrating devices. Kids seem not to take things for granted, as some adults do." Ross, who divides his time between his duties as a firefighter and certified EMT, his fiancÈe and Make A Wish, feels, "All wishes we receive from children have special meaning, and to be able to change the life of a child is significant."
Peggy Medaglia, historically a volunteer for many charities, moved to Hilton Head and spotted a plea for help from the Make A Wish organization in the local newspaper. Working full time in a law office, Peggy always finds time for the Wish children. "They are so interesting and so strong. They exhibit an amazing inner peace. I remember one special little girl who was going through chemotherapy treatments. She had lost her hair and was wearing a mask. In response to all the stares and questions she strongly declared, 'There is nothing wrong with me! I just have cancer!'"
Peggy believes, "God gave these children a gift. As parents we need to recognize how fortunate we are to have healthy children, and reach out to those who do not. The joy and excitement exhibited when we deliver wish packages is a never to be forgotten experience!"
In addition to spending a great deal of time with the applicant's parents and assisting in the required paper work, Make A Wish coordinators determine from the child his or her heart's desire. If it's a Disney request, the recipient family receives accommodations, meals, transportation and money for incidental expenses. When I asked Make A Wish volunteers what their own wish might be, the responses were unanimous: "That we have no more wish children!" Their next urgent wish was for help raising funds so more wishes could be granted. "A Steinway piano," wished talented young Peter, who played the opening number on his dream piano in Greenville's 2012 Nutcracker. Through TD Bank's generosity, after his incredible performance, he was, to his delight, presented the new Steinway on which he had played! When his story reached Hilton Head, he was invited to perform with our own Hilton Head Orchestra! These children offer a captivating look at the power of wish granting. Will you be a child's next wish star?
Do you know a child with a wish or interested in volunteering? Call 800-293-9474 or log on to www.sc.wish.org.
The Mission: Each year the South Carolina chapter grants over 130 wishes and, since the very first wish in 1984, has granted over 2000 wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions. We have never turned down a medically qualified South Carolina child for a wish, a tradition that we proudly carry on year after year.*
Right Now: Currently there are more than 90 medically qualified children waiting for wishes in South Carolina.*
Keeping it in S.C.: All of the money contributed to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of S.C. stays right here in S.C.
The Magic: It all starts when a child, between the ages of 2Ω and 18, with a life-threatening illness is referred to Make-A-Wish Foundation of South Carolina. The child's wish is only limited by his/her imagination, barring safety restrictions. The wish extends to the child's immediate family and his/her wish is granted at no cost to the family.*