Most of us have heard of Make-a-Wish Foundation, the non-profit organization that arranges special experiences for children with critical illnesses. We've seen the kids on TV, meeting and greeting their favorite celebrities, and we've seen them in line for amusement park rides, especially at Disney World, where Wish Kids even have their own resort called Give Kids the World.
But have you ever wondered what it's like for kids to choose their adventures and get sent on these unforgettable excursions? Because children's conditions don't need to be terminal to catch the attention of the foundation, several people who went through the program as children share what their experiences were like.
A recent thread on reddit had people talking about their own memories of Make-a-Wish. If you've ever been curious what goes on behind the scenes of the foundation, read on for 16 stories of Wish Kids who've been through the program.
1. So, Will Clark is canceled.
When my brother was a kid, his hero was first baseman Will Clark. He loved him and wanted to grow up to play first base for the Giants. My dad took him to a game when he was like 8 years old, and some reporter asked my brother if he’d like to meet Will Clark and get his hero’s autograph. My brother was floored. He literally had tears of joy.
When my brother went down with the reporter to meet his hero, Will Clark told the reporter point blank, “I don’t have f(#*$@ time for kids.” My brother’s tears of joy became tears of devastation. He basically cried into his baseball glove and was inconsolable.
Out of the blue, a bullpen catcher for the Giants (I don’t even know his name) raced up to my brother and said, “I have time! Where’s your ball kid?” He signed everything and talked to my brother up until the game started. That was the day my brother decided that he wanted to be a catcher. He went on to get drafted as a catcher out of high school.
2. Yeah, we'd probably go for the Great Barrier Reef too.
I received a wish when I was 15. At that time I was madly in love with Harry Styles and, of course, wanted to use my wish to meet him and spend the day with him. After telling the wish coordinator this she broke the news to me that if I were to meet him it would be a year from then, with about 15 other kids for a VERY brief moment (a hello and a photo).
Upon hearing that disappointing news I changed my wish and instead went to Australia for 10 days with my family and swam in the Great Barrier Reef.
3. Two very different celebrity encounters.
Just for some background, both my sister and I are pretty damn sick and so we had the rare occasion where we BOTH got wishes (my family suggested that we just do one, but Make-a-Wish was adamant that we each got our own)
My sister's Make-a-Wish was to meet Taylor Swift. We flew to Nebraska for 2 days, got in the same meet and greet line as people who won radio contests, took a picture with Taylor Swift, and that was that.
I, on the other hand, asked to meet Christopher Nolan. He had never been requested for a wish, so we were flown to LA where we got a tour of the Warner Brothers lot and then had a private lunch with Nolan and Emma Thomas (his wife). We hung out for two hours, where they finally left because they had some film related thing to do. We found out later that he'd only agreed to an hour, but during the lunch insisted that he stayed longer.
It was quite interesting how we both had celebrity wishes and they both turned out so differently.
4. The whole Schwarzenegger family!
This isn't my personal story, but of my uncle who passed away shortly after I was born.
He loved The Terminator so much that he wanted nothing more than to meet Arnold Schwarzenegger. Due to having a busy schedule, Arnold's agent had to deny him of his wish a couple of times (was filming for the 2nd Terminator).
My uncle was so determined to meet Arnold that he then changed his wish to meeting Maria Shriver (Arnold's wife).
Because of his determination he was allowed on set of Terminator 2: Judgement Day. He got to meet Arnold, Maria, and Arnold's stunt double. My mom still has the pictures and it makes my heart soar.
Make-A-Wish is fantastic and I'm so glad my uncle got to live out his dream. :)
5. The most selfless wish.
I didn't know the kid at all but he died from cancer his senior year of high school when I was a sophomore. We had a assembly for him. His Name was Tyler. His wish was a gift to his best friend. Tyler went to a computer store for with his friend and asked him to show him the best computer there. Then Tyler bought the best computer there for his friend, using make a wish donation money. Only to die a little later. Such a selfless guy.
6. Make-a-Wish finds a way to make the wildest dreams come true.
My little brother has had 2 heart transplants so far and will probably get another before it's all said and done.
His wish was to go to Nintendo. Well Nintendo Japan doesn't grant wishes, but Nintendo of America does. He stayed in Seattle for a few days and had a day long tour of Nintendo. Unfortunately Reggie wasn't in the office that day but the Treehouse staff led him around all day. This was right before the Switch came out so he got to play Breath of the Wild before anyone. They gave him a sweet goodie bag and let him go on a shopping spree in the employee store.
7. Even with simple wishes, the foundation goes above and beyond.
When I was in college, I had a good friend named John, we were both in automotive 8 hours a day for 2 years. One day we grab sushi on lunch and he casually mentioned at 12 years old (current age 20) he was a recipient of Make-a-Wish.
He asked for sushi and just sushi. You could see his eyes light up just telling the story, they set him up with a private lunch at a local sushi bar where he had the entire selection of sushi rolls laid out in front of him with each and every possible condiment/roll/side.
Not an expensive or grandeur request but Make-a-Wish went above and beyond.
8. These selfless Wish Kids melt my heart.
When I was in high school, I had a classmate who was diagnosed with cancer. She was on the softball team (I think it was softball though might have been soccer or something else). Her wish was for her along with her team to meet the U.S. Olympic team. It was too much for Make-a-Wish to cover travel expenses for either team but they were able to fly in one of the main players on the Olympic team to meet her team.
She ended up making a complete recovery, and in fact by then I think she was completely cancer free. Still she wanted to do something for her team and not just her.
9. This person's been on both sides of the Wishes.
I’ve been the recipient and later on after my health improved I volunteered as a wish coordinator.
My original wish was to attend the Oscars. That got denied by the Academy as they do not grant wishes. I wound up going to the People’s Choice Awards as a VIP. Make-a-Wish flew my family to LA for a week, all expenses paid. They got us a limo for the show, paid for my dress, hair, and make up, we walked the red carpet, and were seated very close to the stage. It was a once in a lifetime experience. The generosity of the volunteers is remarkable. They even had someone greet us at the airport on arrival. It was extremely important to me that my brother and sister were included in my wish because my illness had robbed them of part of their childhoods. I am forever indebted to everyone who made my wish possible.
When I turned 18, I decided to volunteer as a wish coordinator to give back to an organization that did so much for me. I met with wish kids and their families. We would always arrive with a gift for all the children in the family based on a little survey they filled out. We’d talk with the child and help define their wish. It’s important to determine the child’s true wish, and make sure that it isn’t influenced by parents. The most common wish is to go to Disney. Celebrity meet and greets are the ones that often can be turned down. First, because it is undefined what a meet and greet is ... it could be the child literally waving at someone and no one wants that, and second because not all celebrities grant wishes or can schedule time to meet wish kids. The coolest wish I worked on was a shopping spree for a boy who was confined to his room. He got 7k to go buy video games, TVs, a tricked out lazy boy, etc for the ultimate gaming setup.
10. Penthouse suite on Waikiki!
I was really lucky to have my Make-a-Wish granted and I just want to say they really go above and beyond. My mom has always talked about going to Hawaii and we knew it was pretty unrealistic for our family of 4. I was pretty young when I made my wish so I didn’t even know all that Hawaii had to offer but I chose to go there for my wish. They put us up in a penthouse suite on Waikiki beach and I’ve never experienced anything more special in my life. Everything and everyone there wanted to make sure my family had an unforgettable time and we sure did. We were able to forget about the cancer for a little while and feel like a normal family again! Thank you so much make a wish and all that contribute.
11. It sounds like they really pay attention to the kid.
I have experience with Make-A-Wish in the last year due to my son's condition. This was a question I asked and the response I was given was they will do anything they can within reason. One kid wanted a swimming pool in his backyard and they did that.
Because of how the process goes with make a wish (They ask the kid a lot of questions to determine what the child wants and to ensure there isn't any influence from the parents) my wife and I sat with my son while they asked him a lot of questions over about a 1 hour period to determine what he wanted to do. They asked my wife and I to sit there silently while he answered honestly.
We are going to go to Legoland and meet Darth Vader sometime in 2019.
12. OK. Weezer is also canceled.
My buddy was dying in high school from cancer and wanted his band to open for Jimmy Eat World / Tenacious D / Weezer around 2001. He was told everyone was cool with it until it got to Rivers (Weezer singer) and he was told Rivers personally said no and shut the entire thing down. He got to hang with Incubus back stage at a show instead and told me he was sure Incubus had no idea why he was there.
13. Even when they can't grant the Wish Kid's first choice, they more than make up for it.
My condition prevented international travel, so even though my top wishes were to go to Japan, or to the UK to meet J. K. Rowling, those were denied.
I ended up doing a shopping spree at Mall of America, which sounds kind of lame but I grew up poor and had a lot of fun being able to just buy things for myself without worrying. First thing I bought was a new pair of glasses since my old ones were scratched and too weak anyway.
14. True dedication.
I got a wish as a kid, then survived.
The biggest, best thing I could think of was to go to Chucky Cheese’s. I have no idea why I was fixated on that.
To the credit of some good peeps, to Chucky Cheese’s I went. I couldn’t be around other people, so they opened it up at night, people deep cleaned it (sterilizing each ball in ball pit, there was dedication there). Then someone who was cleared medically worked it. Don’t remember most of it (was pretty young, mostly just remember the bits I found exciting), but that damn rat casino still makes me smile whenever I see one.
15. They'll even shell out cold hard cash.
I didn't ask. My friend Kyle did. He asked for 100k in cash to go on a spending spree before he died. The foundation couldn't really fork out that kind of money so they settled on a trip to Hawaii for him and his family for a few weeks. And 10k in cash.
16. What a truly incredible organization.
Not a recipient but....
Worked at a Hard Rock Cafe.
A Wish Kid’s wish was to see Paul McCartney live, so they came in to eat dinner before his concert down the road from the restaurant.
We sat him next to some signed Beatles guitars and sheets of lyrics and the such.
As a avid Beatles fan myself, I was able to serve them.
I sat and talked with that 6 year old about the Beatles for a good hour. Played all the Beatles songs, and had their music videos playing on the TVs throughout the restaurant.
It was super humbling with how excited this kid was to go see Paul, and just be able to be outside the hospital for the night. And also super heartbreaking seeing his dad’s face the whole dinner. I never seen such pain, and I think about him frequently.