It’s a 50-50 split when I tell people I work at Make-A-Wish®. Some say “Awww, that’s so nice.” Others say “It must be so sad to work there.” Response #1 deserves a blog post of its own. But it’s #2 that’s on my mind today.
It’s just not true. It’s rarely ever sad to work here. I know why some people might think so … because of the outdated notion that a Make-A-Wish experience is a last wish.
This myth weighs us down. It makes the parents of wish kids reluctant to embrace what Make-A-Wish can do for their kids. It makes them believe that, by referring their child, they’ve given up. If there’s just one thing I want parents to know, it’s that referring their child isn’t throwing in the towel … it’s a way to enlist new friends that can help rally their family. It’s a gift that will give each of them something to take their mind off the struggle against a life-threatening medical condition.
The idea that we only grant “last wishes” also keeps people from helping us in other ways – as donors and volunteers. I get it. Why would I want to support an organization that only serves children who will die?
But who wouldn’t rally behind people who create an X factor, who can make life better for kids and their families?And there are also kids like Elijah, who wished to be a cowboy. His wish celebrated a new beginning in life, free from cancer.
I can tell you all sorts of stories of wish kids who’ve grown up. They get jobs, get married, travel the world, have kids of their own. They’re our biggest advocates – they are the true testimony of the lasting impact of their wishes.
There are sad days. Sometimes, a wish kid grows larger than life … like Erik, whose wish transformed into Electron Boy. His story spread around the globe. An artist even created an online comic book about him. When he passed away from his many medical challenges, my workplace was as gloomy as I’ve ever seen it. I don’t think a single person here actually met Erik – the Alaska & Washington chapter granted his wish – but he became a friend.
This is the rare exception. Most of the time, we hear from a wish kid who is about to get married, a parent praising the quality of the wish experience or even a by-stander who met a wish kid at an airport and felt moved to volunteer.
And there’s just nothing sad to say.