Every 34 minutes, a wish is granted to a child in need by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Anyone can refer a child with a serious illness, and the foundation works to creatively fulfill the request. In 2017, more than 85 million dollars was donated, and approximately 40,000 volunteers worked on behalf of the foundation to serve communities across the United States.

Learn About the History

In 1980, a 7-year-old boy with leukemia was near death but shared one last wish. He wanted to be a U.S. customs agent. A local police officer put together a crew to make him an honorary officer. A specially made uniform, hat and badge completed the gift, and a small boy had his last dream fulfilled.

The officers were so moved by the experience that they began collecting donations to continue granting last wishes for seriously ill children. Fast forward almost 40 years later, and more than 315,000 children have been blessed with a final wish.

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How it Works

There’s a three-step process to make a wish happen for a child. Here’s how it works:

  1. Anyone can nominate a child to be considered for a wish, even a child. The age range for eligible children is 2 1/2 to 18. A child who has received a wish from another organization is not eligible. The child must have a serious illness that’s life-threatening. The Make-A-Wish Foundation verifies the medical condition of the child with the treating physician.

  2. Once selected, a wish team visits the child to learn more about what he desires. A wish team helps the child dream big and consider powerful possibilities.

  3. The next step is carried out by the wish granters. This team puts the child’s wish into action to create a powerful experience.

Make-A-Wish Stories

Dr. Patel conducted a national study to demonstrate the power of a wish. His research found that patients who received a wish were less likely to visit a hospital for emergency visits. The Make-A-Wish Foundation also evokes positive initiatives from recipients. Some children gift their wish to a hospital or organization in need. Here are a few of those Make-A-Wish stories:

  • Zoe, an 18 year old with cystic fibrosis, said her wish was to give a makeover to the fifth floor of the Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital.

  • Amelia, an 8 year old with brain cancer, wished to have a clean-up day at a local park.

  • Lucas, a 12 year old with Hodgkin lymphoma used his wish to have a food truck serve food to his community.

Make-A-Wish Foundation List of Wishes

Even if you used your wildest imagination, it would be challenging to create a complete list of the creative wishes that have been granted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. More than three quarters of the wishes that are granted include travel to a special destination. Fifty percent of the requested wishes include a collaboration with the Walt Disney Corporation. Here’s a list of the top 10 wishes in 2013:

  • Visit Walt Disney World
  • Go surfing in Hawaii
  • Be a pop star in L.A.
  • Visit the Grand Cayman Island
  • See New York City
  • Find seashells on the beach in California
  • Go to France
  • Visit Italy
  • See the barrier reef
  • Go salmon fishing in Alaska

Make-A-Wish Foundation Criticism

Critics purport that the millions of dollars collected by the Make-A-Wish Foundation would be better used to find a cure for diseases rather than providing a fun activity for a sick child. Celebrities have been criticized for refusing to fulfill the wishes of sick children.

Children who wish to hunt, fish or cause harm to animals are refused by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. As a result, three other organizations were formed to fill the void.

About the Author

Dr. Kelly Meier earned her doctorate from Minnesota State Mankato in Educational Leadership. She is the author and co-author of 12 books and serves as a consultant in K-12 and higher education. Dr. Meier is is a regular contributor for The Equity Network and has worked in education for more than 30 years.