Think about that for a moment: A celebrity's schedule is packed. They are constantly in the public eye. Yet more than 1,100 gave some of the children we serve a gift beyond price: their time. Though I've been with Make-A-Wish since 2005, I'm always grateful and amazed by what celebrities do for wish kids.
Just a few weeks ago, I enjoyed reading a recently published book about celebrities who have transformed the lives of wish kids. Wish Granted: 25 Stories of Strength and Resilience from America’s Favorite Athletes focuses on athletes who grant wishes. It reminded me of what wish experiences mean not just to the children, but also to the athletes who grant them. The book provides the poignant backstory of the profound impact these individuals have had in the lives of thousands of wish kids. And likewise, the residual effect a wish experience has on everyone involved – including the athlete.
The aspect of Wish Granted that affected me most was the compassion and responsibility each of the athletes feel for every wish kid they met. You can tell that they care deeply about the child, the family and the wish experience. But they care not only because their generosity can make a difference in a child’s battle against their illness. They care, too, because the act of granting a wish infuses an incredible sense of perspective.
Watching Michael Jordan Stand by a Wish Kid
In April, I watched a wish unfold with one of the most-recognized celebrities of them all. I was in Las Vegas to attend the Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational, a tournament he hosts every year.
Michael has granted wishes for 25 years, and we are honored to call him our friend. He is genuine and compassionate in every wish he has granted, and he is one of our most-enthusiastic and prolific supporters. Here's what amazes me: Even after being retired from professional sports for more a dozen years, Michael still gets wish requests. Some of the children who wish to meet him weren't even born when he played his last NBA game in 2003.
Nine-year-old Lucas is one of those kids.
Michael Helps Lucas Recover His Drive
It's easy to forget that Lucas has leukemia. He's upbeat. He's outgoing. He's everything that a kid his age should be. Throughout this weekend on the links, returning to the hospital for chemotherapy is far from his mind.
He's the most-important reason I was in Las Vegas. I was there to see his life change first-hand. I watched those nervous moments before he met Michael. I saw his expression light up as Michael signed his memorabilia. I watched as they connected person-to-person away from the cameras and media – something Michael has always insisted upon in all 200-plus wishes he has granted.
I spent most of the next day with Lucas on the golf course. I took the wheel of a golf cart with Lucas and his mother as my passengers. Lucas reeled off the names of every celebrity he spotted. We took a limo to In-N-Out Burger for a trip through the drive-through.
Here's the truly important part about Lucas and his wish, though – something bigger and life-changing than everything we did: His mother texted a Make-A-Wish staff member with a message the affirms everything that we do.
“He has such a drive now to beat cancer and just live.”
That is why I am the president and CEO of Make-A-Wish. That's why Michael grants wishes. That's why our work is vital to kids with life-threatening medical conditions.
Just a Glimpse Into the Impact
Lucas is just one wish kid among many who have made this journey with an athlete. It's happened so many times: Two people of different ages and backgrounds with no previous personal connection meet. They bond. They become lifelong friends.
This is the arc of every story in Wish Granted. The athletes share their happiness – and sorrow – in honest detail. They share the life lessons earned through trying to change a wish kid's life … and finding out their own lives changed, as well.
Wish Granted is a wonderful look into the impact athletes make for the kids we serve. I know you'll enjoy it.
Learn more at our Wish Granted page.