Our Chapter's History
When local businessman Ted O’Hara saw a video about the Make-A-Wish® Foundation back in 1985, he was hooked. He shared the video with some friends, with the idea of starting a local chapter, and by 1987 that idea became a reality. The first wish granted by Make-A-Wish® Northeast New York was for a girl from Amsterdam, whose wish was to visit Costa Rica to visit grandparents she had never met.
O’Hara said that those early wishes were challenging, especially as they were breaking ground for a new organization few were familiar with. Now, 33 years later, more than 1,950 wishes have been granted in our local area, with around 90-100 granted each year. Whether a heartfelt wish is for a Walt Disney World® Resort trip or a puppy, a treehouse or to meet a celebrity, it sparks hope, strength and joy in children, as well as families, donors, sponsors, the medical community, volunteers and whole communities.
Looking back at more than three decades, a future filled with amazing and meaningful wishes is truly something to look forward to for all of us. Join us as we follow the steps that were taken to bring smiles to the faces of those children and families.
Frederic T. O’Hara, a local insurance agent, invites his friends and business colleagues to his home to discuss the Make-A-Wish Foundation. … The first fundraising event of the chapter is a black-tie party held on New Year’s Eve.
The local chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation is formally established, with articles of incorporation filed with the State of New York.
In its first three years, the chapter grants more than 15 wishes to local children with life-threatening illnesses. … John and Paula Ross form a volunteer group in the Plattsburgh area. The chapter’s newsletter is created.
Original board member Arthur Place and Company provides office space for the foundation. … The wish-granting committee and speakers’ bureau are established.
The Endowment Fund is created through the efforts of volunteer Donald Lussier. … A volunteer core is established in the Tri-County area (Warren, Washington, and Saratoga), led by Doris Lohfink and Lou McArthur.
The chapter conducts the first Adopt An Angel holiday campaign, created by Charters Marketing with the support of BlueShield of Northeastern New York, WTEN-10 and the Times Union.
The chapter hires its first executive director, Sharon Boswell. … Chapter headquarters are moved to space provided by Matthew Bender & Co. Inc.
The chapter grants a record 58 wishes. … The first volunteer recognition event is held.
The Corporate Genie Campaign, recognizing businesses and corporations for sponsoring a wish, is established in memory of wish kid Joey. … The chapter celebrates its 10th anniversary by holding a Gala and Silent Auction.
A program coordinator is hired to assist and oversee volunteer wish granters in the wish process. … An advisory board is established.
Chapter grants its 300th wish: Joey’s wish to visit Walt Disney World and meet Winnie the Pooh. … Bryan LaVigne is hired as executive director.
The Board of Directors approves the chapter’s first strategic plan. … Make-A-Wish® Foundation of America launches its first national public service advertising campaign.
Make-A-Wish Foundation of America celebrates its 20th anniversary and unveils new logo. … Donations to the Adopt An Angel campaign top the $200,000 mark for the first time, raising enough money to grant approximately 40 wishes.
Chapter grants its 500th wish when Billy and his family enjoy a Disney Cruise Line Land/Sea Vacation. … Chapter headquarters moves to new office space in Latham. … Adopt An Angel celebrates its 10th year.
Chapter grants a record number of children’s wishes: 66, a 61 percent increase over 2002.
The chapter collaborates with more than 35 other community organizations to bring our message of hope, strength, and joy to over 10,000 people. … Chapter grants its 600th wish, to 8-year-old Lashanna from Schenectady. … Chapter also reaches another milestone, with second year in a row of record-high wish totals.
America’s Greatest Brands features the Make-A-Wish Foundation as one of only three non-profit organizations recognized as among “America’s Strongest and Most Trusted Brands.” … The 700th wish to 6-year-old Benjamin of Glenville. Volunteer wish granter Toni Cowie was responsible for granting this milestone wish, as she was for milestone wishes 500 and 600.
Chapter hires new CEO, William C. Trigg, III, PhD. Trigg is still in the position, the longest tenured leader in chapter history. … Chapter kicks off 20th Birthday Year of Celebration with World’s Largest Ice Cream Social at local Cold Stone Creamery stores. … 20th Birthday celebration is held at Hall of Springs in Saratoga Springs, featuring Kevin Sharp and original wish mom Linda Bergendahl-Pauling. … The chapter’s 800th wish is granted to Gary Selner from Leeds, whose wish for an adaptive hobby room came true in February.
Night of Exquisite Tastes launches, an event that featured networking, music, great food, and fine cigars at the Saratoga Polo Club. … Make-A-Wish Idol karaoke event raised nearly $18,000.
Adopt An Angel campaign marks 15th year. … Lindsay from Colonie becomes the chapter’s 900th wish -- and a published author. Her wish includes publishing of her book, “Cracked Up,” complete with a book signing and reception.
The chapter’s 1,000th wish is granted, with 9-year-old Zachary being “slimed” at the Nickelodeon Hotel and Studios in Florida. … Kids for Wish Kids® program launches, enabling students to support Make-A-Wish through their own fundraising projects. The chapter website launches.
Local wish kids who had wishes to visit Walt Disney World® Resort were invited to a “Princess for a Day” event held at the Glens Falls Civic Center. … “Racing for Wishes” Celebrity Bartending Event raised more than $70,000. … The 1,100th wish granted, with Kaitlin from Corinth receiving a customized bicycle and swing.
Local wish child Justice White collects more than 31,000 letters to Santa to benefit the chapter through the Macy’s “Believe” campaign. … More than poker players participate in “All in for Wishes” Charity Poker Tournament. … Wish teen Julia is granted the chapter’s 1,200th: a trip to the Jersey Shore.
Chapter kicks off Silver Anniversary Celebration with the annual “A Wishful Evening Gala” at the Hall of Springs in Saratoga Springs. … Megan, an 18-year-old from Wynantskill, and Melissa, a 16-year-old from Schenectady, each picked a shopping spree experience, and the pair together marked the milestone 1,300th wish granted by the chapter. … Events to mark this milestone year range from sharing a 25-foot-long ice cream sundae to a skydiving event featuring 25 Make-A-Wish supporters who were committed to “Leap for Wishes!” (later “Wish Jump”).
An Albany International Airport celebration upon the return of wish kids Christopher, Austin, Zachary, and Emily and their families from Disney marks the chapter’s 1,400th wish. … “All in for Wishes” attracts 200 players for an exciting 12 hours of play. … Chapter starts “Wheels for Wishes” campaign seeking donations of old cars to help sponsor wishes.
Chapter kicks off the inaugural “Walk for Wishes” event, raising more than $40,000. … “Wish Jump 2014” exceeds fundraising target of $40,000. … Chapter offices move to current location at 3 Washington Square in Albany.
Wish teen Hannah’s wish to go to Los Angeles for the People’s Choice Award show is the chapter’s 1,500th. wish sending her to Los Angeles for the People’s Choice Award show. Channa’s Israel wish is granted, and she and her family travel to what she considers her homeland. wish sending her to Los Angeles for the People’s Choice Award show. The Tri-City ValleyCats hosted a “PhilanTropic” Wish Family picnic night at Joe Bruno Stadium for a night of baseball and fun.
Lucia’s wish to visit Hawaii and swim with sharks is the chapter’s 1,600th. ... Chapter grants a record number of wishes, as 101 are completed in Fiscal Year 2016. ... “Wack’s Ride” became the largest motorcycle fundraising event in the North Country, with more than 600 participants and 425 motorcycles. ... Wish kid Landon is sent to Italy to meet and be blessed by Pope Francis.
The chapter holds its 25th Annual Adopt-A-Wish Holiday Campaign. The Campaign, which started out as Adopt An Angel Campaign, is unique among Make-A-Wish chapters. ... The chapter’s 30th anniversary is celebrated.
Before taking off on his wish – the chapter’s 1,800th – to Walt Disney World, flight enthusiast Ben, 15, got a complete tour of Southwest Airlines’ operation, from the ground crew operations to the cockpit. … The chapter raises a record amount during its 26th Annual Adopt-A-Wish Holiday Campaign, while also seeing a jump in medical referrals during the campaign. … The campaign also features its first-ever north country kickoff, telethon with CBS6-Albany and Evening of Giving with Colonie Center.
The chapter hosts its inaugural Ski For Wishes in Lake Placid, hosted by Andrew Weibrecht, a three-time Olympian, two-time medalist and member of the Board of Trustees. … Wish kid Tiago from Florida wishes to go bobsledding, and comes to Lake Placid. The wish is featured on the international World Cup broadcast and highlighted at the Make-A-Wish National Leadership Conference. … Make-A-Wish co-founder Tommy Austin and his wife Kay are the featured guests at the annual chapter Gala. … Liam’s wish for an adaptive playset is the 1,900th granted by the chapter. A first-time wish granter on the wish is Justice White, who received her wish in 2005. … Wish alum Luke Hoag delivers his 250,000th letter to Santa in his fifth year participating in the Macy’s “Believe” campaign.
Cameron’s wish for a custom computer build is the first granted in the calendar year. He would latter make a video for the chapter chronicling the impact of his wish. … The coronavirus pandemic cripples much of the Make-A-Wish operation. Wish granting is halted in March, and offices close. The chapter’s When Stars Align Gala is postponed until June, and then pivoted to an online-only affair. … The chapter’s Walk For Wishes in August is also transitioned into a virtual event. … Between mid-March and mid-July, the chapter is only able to grant one wish due to travel and other restrictions placed on wishes.