Children often come to the Make-A-Wish Foundation® at a frightening time in their lives. A time of uncertainty, frustrating limitations, and often pain. A time when life-threatening illness abruptly halts the real work of a child’s life - dreaming, creating, imagining, playing - and initiates instead a determined fight for life itself.
The opportunity for “making wishes come true” punctuates that clouded time with a bright interlude that is hopeful, positive, and joyful. A child who is asked to wish begins to visualize a more positive future and to feel empowered to reach out for that future.
As our organization first discussed the possibility of building A Wishing Place in which to conduct our mission work, we surveyed 400 client families that had experienced a wish, looking for insights into ways we could enhance their experience with us, and for the elements that children would expect to see in a building especially designed for wishing.
In that survey for parents, we asked parents to identify the values of a wish experience for a family dealing with a child’s life-threatening illness. Parents told us that a wish motivates a child to participate more actively in recovery and that a wish can even be an encouragement to continue treatment, when a young person is rebelling against the arduous but life-saving protocols required by serious illness. Sixty-five percent of parents said that a wish had actually elevated their child’s energy and physical well-being. Eighty-two percent said that a wish brought back their child’s “old self” again and renewed the ability to laugh, to play, and to believe that life could still be good. More than ninety-five percent told us that a wish gave their child a positive future to plan for and a renewed motivation to get stronger or achieve a milestone in the treatment process.
Because we know the values of a wish for a child, we wanted to make the wishing experience as powerful as possible. Sixteen years after its founding in Utah, the Foundation created a permanent home for its mission work. A Wishing Place enhances the way we orchestrate a wish and serves as a lasting icon for thousands of Utah children with life-threatening medical conditions: an icon of a powerful and happy healing time, once experienced or yet to come.
It also serves as a consistent reminder to all of us in the community that wishes can indeed come true, that hope and dreams are essential to life, that courage can create a positive future, and that a genuine quality of life cannot exist without experiences of joy and hope and sharing.