DeKalb Countians are urged to join in helping make dreams come true for children with life threatening illnesses.
Since 1980, the Make-A-Wish Foundation has given hope, strength and joy to children with life-threatening medical conditions through its wish-granting work. The Foundation's mission reflects the life-changing impact that a Make-A-Wish experience has on children, families, referral sources, donors, sponsors, and entire communities.
Beth Torres, President and CEO of Make-A-Wish for Middle Tennessee, told WJLE Wednesday that the foundation is looking to serve families here in DeKalb County. "The Make-A--Wish Foundation offers wishes to children who are facing life threatening illness between the ages of two and a half to eighteen. We know there are kids here (in DeKalb County) who are facing a life threatening illness and we want to make sure they get their wish. In order to make that happen we need to know the kids are here and then find volunteers who are willing to help make that happen," said Torres.
"We are looking at kids who are facing a life threatening illness. It will, for most of them, be temporary. They'll go through chemo, radiation, and some extended treatment. Most of our children survive. But we want every child who has to face this illness and their families to know that we're here for them," said Torres.
According to Torres, the Make-A- Wish Foundation began thirty two years ago. "In 1980 there was a child in Arizona named Chris, and his lifelong dream was to be a police officer. When he got sick a group of local community people got together and said they were going to make this happen for him. They got him out, got him a little uniform, put him in a police car, and he got to spend the day being a police officer. What we found was that when he was back in the hospital getting his treatment, it was that experience that gave him hope, strength, and joy. We're looking for the child's heartfelt wish and as long as its something we can make happen, we will make it happen. Some of our kids want to go on shopping sprees, so we make that happen. Going to Disney is a huge Make-A-Wish project. Kids love to go to Disney. We've got kids who want to travel or meet celebrities or attend events. We make all of those happen. We want them (parents) to know we're here for their kids and we want to know if there are kids out here with a life threatening illness that we can help, " said Torres.
"We'll take referrals for any child ages two and a half to eighteen. We don't care what their race, religion, or income is. We're here for all the kids," she said.
"All of our support comes from Middle Tennessee," said Torres. We work in thirty eight counties. The money comes from those counties and stays in those counties. We look for corporations who want to sponsor a wish as well as individuals and foundations. It doesn't matter how big or small a donation is, it makes a huge difference in a child's life," she said.
The easiest way to find out more about Make-A Wish is to visit the foundation's website www.middletennessee.wish.org. "All of the referral papers are on there along with all of our contact information at the office. You're certainly welcome to contact us and ask any questions. DeKalb County is part of the responsibility of Middle Tennessee's Chapter, which is the chapter that I work for and we serve all of the thirty eight counties in the middle of the state. We're definitely looking for local contacts, people who are passionate about working with kids. So that's what we're here to do. Hospital (referrals) are probably the easiest for us. We have social workers and doctors who will refer children but we also work through private organizations and individual families who refer their children," said Torres.