Such a touching Article
When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you.
“If your heart is in your dream
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
As dreamers do.”
— sung by Jiminy Cricket
11Two kids. Two wishes. The same types of wishes many children their age may have.
But what if time is short for wishes because the child is facing a life-threatening surgery or condition? Or what if the child is dying?
Can their wishes comes true?
That’s where the Children’s Wish Foundation steps in.
Our local chapter of the national organization grants wishes to children in Manitoba and Nunavut between the ages of three and 17 who are living with high-risk, life-threatening illnesses.
As the organization says on its website: “We will never say no to a wish child. We commit to use our talents, time and energy to realize our children’s wishes.”
Maria Toscano, director of Children’s Wish for Manitoba and Nunavut, says the foundation doesn’t have a magic wand to make wishes come true, but what it does do is constant fundraising.
“We don’t have a waiting list — we have to have the wishes ready when the families are ready,” Toscano said.
“We have to have the money ready to provide the wishes because sometimes we get the call and a child is very sick and they need to have the wish right away.”
Upcoming fundraisers for Children’s Wish are Exile Island and the Winnipeg Cops for Kids.
Exile Island will see various people — including local celebrities — compete against each other in castaway-themed challenges on Sept. 9.
The next day, members of the Winnipeg Police Service will jump on their bicycles and cycle 5,000 kilometres around the Perimeter Highway.
The local chapter of Wish was organized in 1986, two years after the organization came to Canada. It handed out its first wish in 1987 — a child’s wish trip to Disney World.
The organization is closing in on granting its 800th wish here while 15,000 have been granted across the country.
Most popular wish? Going to Disney World.
“But lately we’ve been doing a lot of PlayStations and a couple of trailers for camping,” Toscano said.
Celebrity visits are requested a fair amount of time, but Wish always warns families these wishes might not come true the way they’re hoped.
“We’re so at the mercy of the celebrities and their promotion people,” Toscano said.
“We can only say we’ll do our utmost to help.”
Lisa Smiley said her daughter Alexandra was four when her wish came true and she met Cinderella at Walt Disney World in Florida.
Actually, make that Princerella.
“That’s what she called her,” Smiley said.
“She not only got to visit with her, but talk with her. It was wonderful because she was real to her. And the trip was significant because it meant the bad times were over.”
That’s because the meeting with Cinderella and the fun at Disney World, followed by a Disney cruise on a ship, were used as the proverbial carrot through the child’s last open-heart surgery.
Alexandra had already had two open-heart surgeries and she was facing her third and last when her wish was granted.
“We wanted to use the trip to help her get through the surgery,” Smiley said.
“We talked a lot about the princesses and that got her through. We could say, yes, it is hard to be you but you’re going to get this afterwards.
“And it was great for our sons, too. For the first six months of Alexandra’s life it felt we didn’t have time for the boys so we were careful to say to them, ‘this trip is for all of you.’ ”
Now six, Alexandra herself says her trip, which also included her dad, Craig, and brothers Ross and Ryan “was fun.”
“I liked Cinderella. And I liked the other princesses.”
Smiley says “Children’s Wish is a fabulous organization — I can’t say enough about them.”
Then there are the wishes that end up being one of the last happy memories families have of their children.
Tyler’s mother, Jackie, said her son was in hospital being treated for his terminal cancer when he made the decision in August 2006 to meet Dog the Bounty Hunter, the star of an A&E reality show that sees Dog (real name Duane Chapman) catch people on the run from the law. Tyler had only been diagnosed with cancer a few months before.
Wish quickly organized the trip and paid for Tyler and his family to fly to Hawaii and spend a week in a hotel in Honolulu. Wish even gave the family spending money.
While there, Tyler spent two hours with Dog and other people from the TV show.
Time was short for Tyler. Just days after meeting Dog the week of Sept. 2 to 10, 2006, and then celebrating his 13th birthday on Sept. 15, he succumbed to his neuroblastoma on Sept. 28.
“We were still in the hospital and trying to figure out what wish he wanted and he said ‘how about a set of drums,'” Jackie recalled recently.
“But he would never have had the energy to play the drums so we said how about a trip. He loved Kiss and Gene Simmons and he loved Dog the Bounty Hunter. I think Dog was the right wish to make.”
Jackie said Dog was wonderful with Tyler, spending time with the boy, giving him shirts, and posing for photographs.
“They really wanted to have Tyler go out with them on one of their rides, but with their shooting schedule, it didn’t work out that day,” she said.
Jackie said a news station in Hawaii covered Tyler’s meeting with Dog, but the child never saw the report.
“I never told Tyler he was terminal,” his mother said.
“I always said I can’t tell him. But then the reporter in Hawaii said in the report Tyler would be dying in the next two weeks so we had to tell Tyler he couldn’t see the news, but we couldn’t say why.
“It was so hard to say no.”
But Jackie said Tyler figured it out for himself before the end.
“A few days before he died he said ‘I’m going to die’ and I asked if he wanted to talk about it, but he said no.”
Jackie has nothing but praise for Children’s Wish, agreeing that the trip gave Tyler a chance to literally take a vacation from the illness that would soon claim his life.
“I think they’re a fantastic organization,” she said.
“It was nice that he could focus on something other than cancer and be with our family, too. Tyler was really happy that day.”
To donate, call 945-9474 or go to http://www.childrenswish.ca and click on the ‘donate now’ icon and choose Manitoba and Nunavut under designation.