Initially, I signed up for the 2016 Phoenix Walk For Wishes® on a whim. Another intern at Make-A-Wish America had started a team a few weeks prior, which made it easy for me to join. This would be our first outing as interns as well as my very first chance to attend a Make-A-Wish event.
So far, things were going well. After a post on social media, my family had helped me surpass my fundraising goal. The other interns had raised money, too, even if some couldn’t attend the actual event.
But I was especially excited to go in person, to share a space with other like-minded people and show my support. Plus, I had heard that this Walk For Wishes event would start with a wish reveal (where a child learns that their wish will come true) on stage, and I wanted to be there for the big moment.
Clouds on the Horizon
Enthused and pleasantly surprised by the amount of young people present, I quickly meet up with my own team at the sign-in line. In total, we have four people, a small but mighty troupe. The energy in the crowd is infectious, and I find myself smiling even though I am tired.
Just after we sign in and put on our shirts and star necklaces, the first announcement comes. It is starting to sprinkle, so the main ceremony will be postponed until the skies cleared up. A wonderful woman helps us snap a commemorative photo, and then, there is nothing to do but wait.
The wait doesn’t last long. Within minutes, the raindrops grow in size, so we decide to head to the main stage for the big wish reveal. On the way, though, the drizzle gives way to a downpour and the walkers become runners. We flee and take shelter under the awning of a nearby restaurant. Luckily, the speakers are bumping some sweet tunes – including a few kids’ pop hits I am ashamed to know at my age – and the rain doesn’t seem to deter the walkers at all.
About ten minutes into our wait, a group of stormtroopers and pilots crosses the lot, no doubt a part of the wish reveal. Noticing me filming, they make their way straight for us. Through one of the suits, I hear a small voice say, ‘Do you want to take a selfie?’ and of course, we oblige. Right after, characters from the Dark Side parade by, headed up by the infamous Kylo Ren.
But even more exciting, we spot Olivia, the very wish kid herself! She is wearing her blue wish kid shirt and holds her mother’s hand as they cross the parking lot. Or, more accurately, skip, splashing in puddles all the way to the main stage.
After she passes, the water begins to pool on the asphalt, and a drain pipe gushes onto the sidewalk, nearly scaring a dog out of its wits. We decide to make a move toward shelter. During a lull in the rain, we sprint for an indoor hallway, and just in time. The rain starts coming down yet again.
The Storm Breaks
At around 8:30 am, a muffled announcement makes its way to us. Due to the persistence of the rain, they say, and not wanting to make all the walkers wait, Walk For Wishes has been canceled.
My heart sinks. What about Olivia and her wish reveal? What about all the stormtroopers dressed up for her wish, and all the families who have come out today just for her? Are we really going to let a little water get in the way of our celebration?
But as I stand there, despairing over how disappointed everyone will be, I realize something.
This is not the attitude of a wish kid.
Every wish kid, including Olivia, has navigated the world with a life-threatening illness. And every wish kid has experienced letdowns far greater than a rainy day in Arizona. This is not the end of the world, nor is it even a negative thing. Wasn’t I just raving about how amazing it is to see so many young, charitable souls, so many community members willing to come together for a child and their wish?
After the Rain, a Rainbow
As it turns out, the other walkers share my sentiments. Instead of dispersing, many teams stick around, choosing to eat breakfast and mingle rather than head home. Several coffee shops, restaurants and pizza places had already chosen to donate part of their earnings to Make-A-Wish for the event, and these places are especially packed.
Despite the rain, it appears Walk for Wishes is a huge success. All the walkers are still smiling and having fun, and combined, the Phoenix walkers raise over $250,000 for Make-A-Wish. Our own intern team donated $695. With an average wish cost that rises every year, each and every penny makes a huge difference.
I can truly say that this experience impacted my life for the better. It brought me closer to my fellow interns and the local community. It also taught me that when the unexpected happens, it’s important that we remember what all of this is for – the wish kids and their families, to help them get better and to give them a break from living with illness. And as long as we are moving toward that goal, that’s all that really matters.