(BPT) - Fourteen-year-old Kael, who lives with a severe blood disorder, is “obsessed with flying.” That love of aviation makes sense considering his great-grandfather, grandfather and father are all pilots, making Kael a fourth-generation aviation geek. Despite the ongoing pandemic, Kael got to fulfill his wish to get a head start on his future career as a pilot thanks to Make-A-Wish® and its donors who make wishes possible.
Interested in training for his pilot’s license, Kael wished for a gaming computer and Microsoft Flight Simulator. Make-A-Wish granted that wish and took it a step further by helping him experience the state-of-the-art flight simulator at FlightSafety International in Columbus, Ohio, the kind that real pilots train on. Kael was thrilled to fly a simulated business jet alongside his dad (a current Delta Airlines pilot) and grandpa (a former Republic Airways pilot).
Throughout the pandemic, Make-A-Wish has continued to grant wishes to children with critical illnesses — a condition that has placed the child’s life in jeopardy. An overwhelming majority of these wish children go on to recover or successfully manage their illnesses. It is a misconception that Make-A-Wish is only for children with a terminal diagnosis.
When necessary, Make-A-Wish has found creative ways to reimagine how they fulfill these wishes to continue their mission and protect the families they serve. Richard Davis, a long-time CEO of U.S. Bank, the fifth-largest bank in the U.S., came to lead Make-A-Wish in January 2019. Throughout the pandemic, Davis has skillfully led the organization to ensure that Make-A-Wish continued to deliver hope when it’s needed most. He continues to stress to donors the importance of the Make-A-Wish mission and its impact on children. According to Mr. Davis, “Through a wish come true, we can give wish kids a piece of their childhood back — and every child deserves a childhood.”
“We know that the anticipation of a wish-come-true can be a powerful motivator for wish kids to face and overcome the challenges in their way,” Mr. Davis continued. “The pandemic has forced us to think creatively about how we can fulfill wishes and make a meaningful impact for these children and their families.”
With some wish types on hold due to health and safety concerns, Make-A-Wish has seen a significant increase in wishes involving local travel, backyard enhancements like playsets, bedroom makeovers, and other experiences that inspire and delight children with critical illnesses. For these children, wish fulfillment is an essential part of their treatment.
The organization boasts thousands of alumni, some of whom, because of their experiences, go on to work in medical professions and become Make-A-Wish referrers for other families in need later in life. One example of a child who had their wish granted and is now all grown up is Zack, diagnosed with a rare cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma at age five. He spent much of his childhood in the hospital receiving chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Zack didn’t realize that he had a life-threatening illness, but he knew he was in a lot of pain. What he does remember the most is the day he got his wish.
“Make-A-Wish made me a paleontologist for the day and gave me Meaty — a seven-foot T-rex dinosaur that is still in my backyard. This day marked a turning point in my endeavor to get well. My wish made an impact so strong that I felt not only stronger, but it gave me a day of hope — a hope that I would get better and be able to have more days like this with no treatments, no tests and no hospitals.”
Now, more than 15 years later, Zack has recovered from cancer and embarked on a career in the medical field. In 2019, he even had the chance to take an intern position at the hospital where he was treated. Reflecting on his experience at the time, Zack said, “It’s crazy to think that I’m working on the same unit I stayed on as a patient!”
His wish now is that all kids with critical illnesses get the chance to experience the power and positivity of a wish, much like he did all those years ago. Zack is helping to make that wish a reality as an active fundraiser for the organization. To date, Zack has channeled his passion for the organization into more than $150,000 in donations from friends, family and members of his community. The donations have helped bring joy back into the lives of dozens of wish kids and their families.
Since the pandemic’s beginning, uncertainty, anxiety and fear are all things our society has experienced, and it is something that children with critical illnesses are experiencing even more intensely. The wish journey gives children with critical illnesses a piece of their childhood back, and every child deserves a childhood. You can continue to make a difference in the lives of wish kids in your community by donating at wish.org.