They are making children’s dreams come true, one wish at a time.
© Submitted photo
Evan is one of the children from Prince Albert who received a wish from the Children's Wish Foundation.
The Saskatchewan chapter of the Children’s Wish Foundation is currently running their annual Wishes and Dreams tour across the province.
“I’m trying to share stories with people, to let people know what exactly the foundation does in these communities across Saskatchewan,” provincial director Gay Oldhaver said.
The Children’s Wish Foundation, which has been in Saskatchewan for 29 years, is a national organization dedicated to granting wishes to children who are ill and going through treatment.
“(The Saskatchewan chapter) does approximately a wish a week but we are doing a little better than that right now, which is one reason we are hoping for a really good (home) lottery,” Oldhaver said. “An average wish costs about $10,000.”
There are three different kinds of wishes -- travel, celebrity or an item.
“The travel wishes are for the family,” Oldhaver said. “So the child choses the destination but we send the whole family -- whoever is living in the house where the wish child lives.”
The largest family the foundation has sent on a trip was 11 people.
“Most often, there is a couple of siblings and parents but as you can imagine, there are all kinds of scenarios,” Oldhaver said. “We try to accommodate all family situations … The costs vary, but that is one thing very unique to children’s Wish is we include the whole family.”
Item wishes can be anything from a bedroom redecoration or a playhouse to an animal, like a horse or pony.
“Sometimes we have to talk them up and other times we have to talk them down,” Oldhaver smiled. “We can’t bring the moon to you but we could design a man cave for you or a state-of-the-art gaming room.”
The last wish gives the child a chance to meet a celebrity of their choice.
“That can be anything from a sports celebrity to an entertainment celebrity,” Oldhaver said. “We just sent a child and his family to two or three Blue Jays games a couple of weeks ago. They had a blast. We worked in partnership with the Jays Care Foundation.”
When it comes to the celebrity wishes, sometimes others will pitch in like the Jays Care Foundation.
“They did so much for this little guy -- way more than what this wish would have sent him to do,” Oldhaver said. “He got over and above, which was fantastic. It is always great to hear those stories.”
Oldhaver said there are many unique and inspirational wish stories she has heard over the years. One of the most inspirational stories was about a young boy from Prince Albert named Evan.
Evan was born with a rare nevus or birthmark covering most of his torso. He had his first surgery when he was only 18 months old. After 21 surgeries, 65 per cent of Evan’s birthmark has been removed.
“As he grows, so does this birthmark,” Oldhaver said. “Every time he grows, it has to be removed. He can’t be in the sun. His first wish was to go to Hawaii. When he couldn’t make that happen, for medical reasons, that’s where he thought the second best thing would be camping with his family.”
The Children’s Wish Foundation helped make that happen by providing Evan’s family with a camping trailer. Although Even is still in the middle of treatments, his family was able to take a few camping trips over the summer.
“Evan is also an ambassador for the foundation,” Oldhaver said. “He actually participates in the Wishmaker Walk every year, which is being held here on Sept. 21.”
The Wishmaker Walk is one of the ways people can show their support of the foundation. The other is buying tickets on the Home Lottery.
“We like to say the Wishmaker Walk is a way of showing your support,” Oldhaver said. “You can come out, walk, and enjoy a day of festivities. The lottery is really a way you can help offset some of the costs of our wish granting in Saskatchewan. We are not competing against each other.”
Evan is the top fundraiser in Prince Albert for the Wishmaker Walk.
“For a little guy, he is pretty mighty,” Oldhaver said
The wishes are meant to be part of a child’s hope and healing process, Oldhaver explained.
“Even though we may interact with a child and their family maybe during the illness or post-treatment, there is still an element of hope and healing throughout all of those stages,” Oldhaver said. “More than that, it is about an opportunity for that family to either reconnect or connect without the illness being in between.”
Oldhaver suggested one six-year-old girl said it best after she received her wish.
“A quote from a young girl that still remains very near and dear to me is ‘My week in Disney World was like a week without cancer,’” Oldhaver said. “If that can be achieved, we are doing our job. We can’t cure, We can’t do research, we can’t provide programs for these families, but what we do is offer families this one time they can unite as a family either through a trip or something special brought into their homes.”
Helping families and hearing success stories are the best payback, Oldhaver said.
“A lot of those stories are told in our offices with a lot of tears … It is not sad tears, it is happy tears,” Oldhaver said.
The Home Lottery is one of the biggest fundraisers for the Children’s Wish Foundation.
“How we fund these wishes is with the Wish Home Lottery,” Oldhaver said.
There is $1 million grand prize, which can either be taken as cash or used to build a dream home. There are also many add-ons, including a vacation for life package and the 50-50. The early bird deadline is on Sept. 19. Tickets will be available until Oct. 3 and the draw will be made on Oct. 9. More information can be found at wishhomelottery.ca.
With the funds they receive through the lottery, they can help more children, Oldhaver said.
“Our population is growing so we are just being more and more proactive than ever because we don’t want to miss any opportunities to grant a wish to any Saskatchewan child,” Oldhaver said. “There are doctors who will say pivotal moment like that can make a difference. Why wouldn’t we try?”