How Granting Wishes Helps Kids Beat Illness

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Representing more than 22 million people, Make-A-Wish Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana (OKI) is the largest of 61 chapters in the country. The organization, says president and CEO Doug Kelly, has granted nearly 14,000 wishes, impacting an estimated 70,000 lives.

Earlier this year, OKI unveiled an initiative proven successful by other chapters across the nation. Called W.I.S.H. (Women Inspiring Strength and Hope), the fundraising campaign calls for 20 women from Central Ohio to each raise a minimum of $8,000 (the average cost of a wish) for a local wish recipient.

The diverse group of women includes nurses to CEOs. "We are building a base of powerful women who know our mission and are creating a voice," says Christine Hoyer, Make-A-Wish OKI's development officer.

While some view Make-A-Wish as a "last-wish" organization for terminally ill children, Kelly affirms 80 percent of wish kids actually go on to live healthy, normal lives. He adds a wish can make a world of difference for these children, who have lived in a climate of "no."

"A wish gives them something to look forward to," he says. "[It] brings the family together in a close, powerful way."

According to Kelly, a wish can be a powerful part of treatment. Nearly 90 percent of doctors see positive changes in the health of wish recipients.

Dr. Mark Ranalli, an associate professor of pediatrics at Ohio State, notes a wish can be a turning point for a child who has endured a very abnormal childhood.

"[Wishes] inject normalcy back into the illness experience," he says. "All they have to do is be a kid."

In addition to energizing the kids and helping them be compliant during therapy, Ranalli says children experience a better recovery due to an increase in happiness and a decrease in stress.

W.I.S.H. will conclude with a luncheon on Nov. 12 at Scioto Country Club, when the participant who raises the largest amount of funds will earn the title of W.I.S.H. Woman of the Year.

"We've never tapped into this power," Kelly adds. "Humanity coming together is really powerful."