Interview with a 10-year Make-A-Wish supporter

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Happy Child Playing at Home.Kid having fun with toy paper wings

Recently, Vancity Buzz was graciously invited to take part within The Whistler Invitational, Potential Apparel’s flagship annual golf tournament. NHL players along with amateur golfers joined together to enjoy a game of golf as well raise funds and awareness for Make-A-Wish Foundation.

During our time at The Whistler Invitational, we had the opportunity to interview Willemein Van Der Wal, a Volunteer Board Member of Make-A-Wish BC who has been supporting the foundation for ten years.

He provided us with some insight about Make-A-Wish Foundation and why it is so near and dear to her:

Tell us about Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Make-A-Wish grants wishes to children facing life threatening medical conditions to give them hope, strength, and joy. In Canada we granted over 500 magical wishes last year alone.

Why did you join the charity?

About 10 years ago, I realized I wanted to give back and get involved with a charity in a way that was meaningful. So I got connected with Make-A-Wish. Initially, I was involved on a resource committee where we helped generate ideas for events and fundraising and build connections within the community. I joined the board about 10 years ago.

What compelled you to join Make-A-Wish out of all of the charities out there?

So many charities out there are doing such great work but for me Make-a-Wish was really special. No child should have to face a life threatening medical condition and if we can do something to take their focus off that, give them a magical wish to dream about and look forward to, that is so meaningful and important.

The wishes are life changing; they take the children and their families from a place of uncertainty to a place of hope, strength and joy.

Is there a story that resonates with you?

There are so many amazing ones. The one that stands out to me right now, just because this event is supported by so many NHL players, is a wish recently in British Columbia that we organized for a young boy from the island that was battling cancer.

He really wanted to meet the Canucks, and particularly Henrik Sedin. So, we arranged his wish and we brought the family over from the Island to come up to Vancouver. We told the mom to pack the young boy’s hockey gear but not to tell him.

He arrived at the ice rink and met Henrik Sedin, who took him to the change room and then said, “Go put on your skating gear. You’re practicing with the Canucks today.”

You can imagine the look on the little boy’s face. It was priceless. Those are the moments you’ll never forget. It’s one of the things that I love about our wish granters as well. They just try to go above and beyond for our wish children and make each which magical and special.

We always see the wishes but we never see the hard work that goes along with fulfilling the wishes. Can you tell me a little bit about the work that goes into fulfilling some of the wishes and what you do on the backend?

On average, it takes about 15 hours to organize a wish. And as I mentioned, they try to make each one extra special. It starts with a personal meeting with a wish granter who is specially trained by Make-A-Wish and they meet with the wish child to see what their number one wish truly is. What would make it extra special for them? So, that’s how it starts and then they go to work and make it happen.

What are some wishes that you are currently working on?

At any given time we are working on over 100 wishes in B.C. alone. One of them is a girl who wants to go to the Teen Choice Awards and Brooks Brothers will be providing her and her sister with outfits!

Another wish child wants to go see her grandparents in the Philippines with the whole family. And another boy wants to have wonton soup with his favourite Canuck Alex Burrows in the fall.

As a regular person going about their day, how can one help out Make-A-Wish?

Lots of different ways! We don’t receive government funding and the average total cost of a wish is about $10,000 each, depending on the wish.

Everything that we do is made possible through private donations, corporate donations, through wills, and fundraisers such as a golf tournament that we currently having.

There are other ways to get involved as well. People can “Adopt A Wish” – for example, a couple getting married can adopt a wish and they can ask their guests for donations in lieu of gifts and pay for a wish. They will actually know which wish they helped grant.

Corporations and schools can also adopt wishes. People can add Make-a-Wish to their will or contact us about organizing an event. And we are also always looking for volunteers. More information here on how you can get involved www.makeawish.ca/get-involved.

Is there anything that you would like to add on that our readers would be curious about?

There are four different kinds of wishes typically.

“I want to go to” – the travel wish which is the most popular. I believe over 70 per cent of our wishes are travel wishes, and Disneyland and Disney World are the prime destinations.

Another type of wish is “I wish to have.” These wishes centre around having a particular item like a grand piano or a trampoline, some sort of item.

The next type is “I wish to be,” with the child wishing to be someone like a fireman, police officer or Batman for a day.

And finally, there’s “I wish to meet.” They want to meet a celebrity or an athlete, someone who is well known.

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Harpreet Shergill is the Community Manager at Vancity Buzz and your guide for community events.
@HarpShergill

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