Relief from the challenge of a major illness is hard to come by for many young people. Anyone dealing with a life-threatening condition knows the difficulty of maintaining any semblance of a normal routine, let alone finding joy and happiness. It is here, where Make-A-Wish is working.

For more than 30 years, Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area has been helping children and families find some of that lost joy through the simple, yet profound opportunity for children to answer question, “If you could wish for anything, what would you wish for?”

In 11 years as the Program Director (wish planning) and now Development Director at Make-A-Wish, I’ve seen the incredible joy and sense of empowerment a child experiences when selecting a wish. So much is taken away by illness and treatment protocols that the opportunity to control something… anything…like a wish takes on an important role in a child’s recovery. Wishes certainly are not curing illness, but they are providing an important source of hope for children with life-threatening illnesses.

In the words of Dr. Greg Carter, who has treated many wish children, “A Make-A-Wish experience is a profoundly positive factor for kids. Providing hope cannot be underestimated. If someone has hope, then they have the will to fight. And if they have the will to fight, then I think you can deal with these diseases.”

Paul Fisher, Chief of Pediatric Neurology at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital and also a former Chair of the Make-A-Wish Board of Directors added, “Make-A-Wish is an important weapon in my arsenal to help my kids defeat their cancer.  I consider Make-A-Wish a critical part of the treatment program.”

Recent polling by Make-A-Wish of America provides additional insight into how wishes affect sick children:

  • 99% of parents reported that the wish gave their children increased feelings of happiness.
  • 89% of nurses and doctors believe a wish experience can influence wish children’s physical health
  • 84% observed a decrease in their child’s anxieties or depression
  • 82% believe their chances for recovery were improved thanks to the wish experience
  • 81% of parents observed an increased willingness to comply with treatments.
  • 74% saw the wish as a positive turning point in the child’s battle against their illness
  • 71% of former wish children believe their lives was saved by a wish

Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area serves children with life-threatening illnesses between the ages of 2 ½ and 18 in 17 counties spanning from the Oregon border to below Monterey. In 31 years the Greater Bay Area chapter has fulfilled nearly 7,000 wishes, including Miles’ wish to be Batkid – a wish literally followed around the world. His is but one of many amazing stories.

Here’s Sam’s story, one of the nearly 400 wishes we will grant this year:

312x214-Sam-SanJoseSharksSam, age 18, hypoplastic left heart syndrome

“I Wish to be a San Jose Sharks hockey player”

Sam was born with only the right side of his heart. His parents were told he would never ride a bicycle. But 18 years later Sam loves skateboarding and his heart “bleeds teal” instead of red. His love for hockey and the San Jose Sharks goes that deep.

On March 18th Sam signed a one-day contract with his favorite team and became one of them. In the morning, he watched the team practice and got to skate with them and take shots on goalie Alex Stalock. Later, he toured the Shark Tank and got to have lunch with some of the players. He even got fitted for a suit so that he could look like a Shark on and off the ice. All of those were just buildup for the moment he became the first non-player ever to skate through the Shark’s mouth onto the ice with the team, and stand on the ice with them for the national anthem. In recognition of his lifelong heroics and commitment to the team he loves so much, the Sharks announcer told the crowd of 17,562 that he had just signed a one-day contract and, with his image on the Jumbotron and the crowd cheering wildly, Sam and his entire family were brought to tears. The YouTube video of this moment has been viewed over two million times, and everyone who was there that night and who was watched it was able to experience the emotional power of a wish.

Make-A-Wish Mission:

“We grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.”

To learn more about Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area:

To refer a child:

David Hatfield
David Hatfield has been with Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area since 2004, first as Program Director and now as Development Director. Perhaps most importantly, he has been a volunteer wish grantor the entire time, granting dozens of wishes to amazing children throughout the Bay Area.
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