In 2006, Make-A-Wish® granted the wish of her daughter, Lois, to go on a Disney cruise. Lois, who was 5 at the time, is diagnosed with a rare chromosome disorder called trisomy 13. The condition has resulted in 15 surgeries and heart problems. Lois can walk only with the help of a walker.
“She’s a joy and a miracle,” Sampson said.
She met other families with children facing trisomy 13 and similar conditions online. They were the first to suggest referring Lois for a wish. Seeing Lois’ wish come true was a powerful experience for Sampson, who is a school social worker. After the wish, she volunteered as a wish-granter for Make-A-Wish Central and Northern Florida. In just more than a year, she has granted three wishes and has started on her fourth.
“I thought I’d be able to give an inside perspective as a wish parent,” Sampson said.
She knows well the challenges and heartache of a having a seriously ill child. But most importantly, Sampson is completely versed in the impact of a wish. Even though her condition makes Lois unable to speak, the joy she felt during her cruise was clear to everyone around her. Sampson is convinced the wish experience is equally profound for all wish kids.
Make-A-Wish, she explains, makes it possible for parents to relax and to see their children enjoy the special treatment that is part of a Make-A-Wish experience. From exclusive meet-and-greets aboard ships to behind-the-scenes tours of theme parks, there is always something to make sure wish kids feel special.
Sampson has granted wishes for a pink Dell computer, a stay at Give Kids the World Village and a backyard playground. She believes her experience as a school social worker helps her communicate effectively with wish kids.
As a wish-granter, she follows a few simple rules to make everything run smoothly: don’t be judgmental, empathize with the stress the family faces and always focus on the child’s wish.
The “ripple effect” of wishes amazes Sampson. She points to Lois’ wish as evidence — that wish motivated her to volunteer. And three co-workers who heard about Sampson’s wish-granting experiences have signed up as volunteers. She is convinced that the Foundation’s mission makes it irresistible for people to get involved in some way.
“It really puts kids and families first,” Sampson said.