This was my most-difficult experience as a wish-granting volunteer. As I sat watching this wish child struggle, I thought back to when I first completed volunteer my training with Make-A-Wish Arizona. I remember thinking how excited I was to meet each new wish child and their family. Wish granters and wish families meet during what’s called an “initial wish visit.” This can take place at the family’s home, a hospital or even the local Make-A-Wish chapter. The two wish granters bring lots of tasty treats, presents for all the kids and even balloons! It’s a day for celebration, where we talk about the one true wish and get the wish process started.
This particular initial wish visit is etched into my memory forever. After the wish child fell asleep, my fellow wish granters and I continued to talk to his mom for hours in another room. It was there she began to pour her soul out to us, telling us what the family had been through, the pain of raising a child diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition and his prognosis, which was not bright. It was a moment I will not forget and I left that home feeling emotionally exhausted. On the one hand, I was full of such joy that this sweet boy would meet a celebrity he always dreamed of meeting. On the other, I was bursting with sorrow at what the family and child were going through. I remember thinking as I drove home: “I was not prepared for that.”
I have made 10 initial wish visits since that first one. One was at a hospital where my fellow wish-granter and I had to suit up in gowns, gloves and face masks. We entered the room bravely with smiles etched on our faces, only to see a young man in so much pain. I had to hold back tears and keep on smiling. Another was at a family’s home. The 3-year-old wish child had just lost his hair during chemotherapy and his mom cried to me as she described his blonde curls that had been lost earlier that week. Another was in the family’s cozy apartment where the sweet little girl carefully placed princess stickers all over my hands. She had just finished treatment and was in remission. Her home was full of joy and relief.
My first wish child passed away shortly after his wish was granted. I will never forget him or his family. The wish he received gave the family peace and comfort, and I know they look back on his day fondly. Wish families are often experiencing the hardest times of their lives when we meet them. Our love, patience and giving hands can mean the world to a family going through treatment. The parents might rejoice in the welcome distraction a wish can bring, or the strength it gives the child to keep fighting.
“Just one more treatment and my wish will come true,” I imagine one of my sweet wish children saying.
Though these meetings and the process of granting a wish are full of mixed emotions, I can tell you personally that every single minute is worth it. Visits with our wish families are overwhelming, wonderful, heart-breaking and uplifting. It is because of these families that I continue to volunteer and sign up to grant wishes. It is because of them that I give back and do what I do. I am grateful for every single one of them and the influence they have had on my life, the gratitude and hope they have given me. Thank you to all of the families who allowed me to be a part of their lives.