Wish Nation

Son’s Wish Turns Mom Into Super-Fundraiser

Veronica is presented with a check at her Bowl-A-Thon event
It’s been more than 13 years since Veronica Johnson lost her son, Dylan, to a congenital heart defect. Her response to a personal tragedy few parents can imagine: raise funds so other children like Dylan can discover the escape of a Make-A-Wish experience. So far, her annual Dylan Johnson Memorial Bowl-A-Thon has raised more than $250,000 for the Greater Bay Area chapter.

Today, she is also on the Greater Bay Area Advisory Board and the chapter’s Wish Star program manager. When the Wish Nation team heard about Veronica, we knew we had to share her story.

Here’s a quick Q & A session to give you some insight about how Veronica helps change the lives of Make-A-Wish kids. Dylan investigates these two odd-looking creatures while visiting the theme park

When you meet someone who doesn’t know about the Dylan Johnson Memorial Bowl-A-Thon, how do you describe it? And how did you decide on bowling?

The one word that describes it? “AMAZING”. I was visiting Dylan’s gravesite about a month after he passed away, I was eating my lunch while sitting under a tree. I remember saying, “You made me into the Mom that I am today. Now that you are gone, what am I supposed to do?” At that moment, a breeze came across the cemetery and my body went limp. I then realized it was my son telling me to grant wishes. I held my first bowl-a-thon two months after that experience not knowing how much or how many people would attend. We raised $3,000 that day with 90 people attending. I worked in the bowling industry for several years so this is how I came up with a bowl-a-thon. What I love about this event is that anyone can do it.

Your original plan was to stop after you raised $50,000. You’ve already raised five times that amount. What happened?

Well, when you raise $3,000 your first event and you do the math, it would take me 17 years to hit $50,000. The following year we raised $4,500.00 and the year after that $7,500.00. I figured with our numbers going up every year that I couldn’t stop at $50,000 raised for the Greater Bay Area chapter. This year we had 220 bowlers attend and raised $33,000. We have over 150 raffle items, live auction, and a silent auction. So there is always something going on while you bowl. I once announced that I was going to stop doing the event, which did not make people happy. For some, this event brings hope and joy as well as being able to make a donation to such an amazing organization. I never thought that the death of my son would make me into the person that I am today.  Dylan and his father enjoy some bonding time before the wish

Why is Make-A-Wish so important to you?

Words can’t express the love that we have for this organization. The whole wish process was amazing, from the wish-granting volunteers all the way through the wish. What is amazing is that he passed away just 10 days after his wish. We even got the Make-A-Wish logo tattooed on our bodies as a symbol of how much we love this organization. I will forever be a Make-A-Wish mom.

What meaningful experiences can you share from meeting other Make-A-Wish kids and families?

I have met so many wish families over the past 13 years. I have met ones that have lost children and ones who have children that are alive and doing well. Dylan’s best friend back in 2000 is also a Make-A-Wish child. Dylan and Jeremy were having open heart at the same time with the same doctors at Lucille Packard in Palo Alto, California. I remember having to wake Jeremy’s mom up in the middle of the night to come say goodbye to Dylan since we knew he was being called to God. To this day, Jeremy is a sophomore in high school and is doing very well. We are all still great friends and I will always have a strong bond with this family.

Before organizing the Bowl-A-Thon, what sort of charity or philanthropy work did you do?

I never did any type of fundraising before losing our son. I guess you can say I turned tragedy to triumph. I can’t bring Dylan back, but I know that I can take what I have learned and make a difference in the life of a child with a life-threatening illness. I love that Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area calls me to do public speaking, I love talking about Dylan and our story. I know we all have a purpose in life and for some they still haven’t found out what that is. What is my purpose of life? To share the power of a wish®

About this Blog

Wish Nation gives you a behind-the-scenes look at Make-A-Wish®. See how wishes come together and how they change lives forever. Hear directly from those who work or volunteer here, or those who have been transformed by a wish. And learn why we are so committed to someday granting the wish of every eligible child, every year.

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Roni you do amazing things everyday and I thank you for all the hard work that you do. YOU ROCK!

December 09, 2013 - 5:35 PM

Vickie Saling

It has been a heart warming experience to be a part of this for 8 years. Team Heald has been amazing, volunteering their time at the event and fundraising for months before event to fulfill wishes of children.

December 09, 2013 - 6:34 PM

Kris Werk

Veronica is the most loving soul! I've had the pleasure of knowing her for many years and can say without a doubt she has dedicated her life to the memory of Dylan and helping other Make-A-Wish families. I'm so proud to call her friend.

December 09, 2013 - 9:40 PM

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