Wednesday, 18 September 2013 13:26

Foundation helps children to make wishes come true

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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For 29 years, the Children’s Wish Foundation has been helping children in Saskatchewan to live a dream and to briefly forget about their life-threatening illnesses.


Gay Oldhaver, the chapter director of the Children’s Wish Foundation in Saskatchewan, has been travelling across the province during the first three weeks of September to talk to local media outlets about the difference the granting of a wish can make in the life of a child.
The Wishes and Dreams tour included a visit to Swift Current Sept. 6, where she spoke to the Prairie Post.
For Oldhaver, it is important that children should still be able to make a wish during their illness and the Foundation is helping them to achieve that dream.
“Being afflicted with a disease, you can become defined by that very, very quickly,” she said. “To be able to, even temporarily, forget about it with a trip to Disney World or a shopping spree is but a moment in time and if a child can forget that they’re sick, then we’ve done our job.”
Oldhaver recalled a quote from a young six-year-old girl after a trip to Disneyland with her family, which she described as a week when she did not have cancer.
“I think that says it all because that’s been these children’s lives,” she said. “Hospitals, appointments, treatments, needles, blood, surgeries. All these things become their life. They’re so old before their time.”
Last year the Foundation granted the wish of a teenager from a community located northeast of Swift Current. He suffers from Long QT syndrome (LQTS), a rare inherited heart condition that is also affecting several of his siblings.
He did not want to miss his sister’s wedding in Finland, his father’s homeland, and with the Foundation’s support he was able to travel with his family to attend the celebration. This year, the Foundation is granting a wish to his younger brother, who is also suffering from LQTS, to go on a shopping spree to West Edmonton Mall.
“We do not want to miss any children who could potentially qualify for a wish because it is not just that they’re getting something,” she said. “It is an opportunity for them to reconnect with their families. It may give them some hope in terms of getting through their treatment process or their diseased condition that might take years to overcome or it might be a celebration when they’ve finished their treatment.”
According to Oldhaver, the number of wishes granted by the Foundation in Saskatchewan has increased. It used to be around 30 to 40 per year, but last year, they granted 52 and this year there will be more than 60 wishes.
“Probably because the population is increasing in Saskatchewan, so are our wishes,” she said. “We’re actually tracking more than a wish per week right now, which is a pretty high volume for us. We’re a very small office with a very small staff, but we’re keeping up.”
During September, five families are going on trips to fulfill travel wishes, which make up about 60 per cent of all wishes and Disney World is the most popular destination. Item wishes are around 35 per cent of all wishes and celebrity wishes are around five per cent.
Wishes are granted to children between the ages of three and 17 and a wish must be taken within five years or before they turn 18.
“We’ve had to decline wishes when we decline the diagnosis,” she said. “We do not decline the wish, but the diagnosis.”
The Foundation has a medical advisory committee to review applications in case of uncertainty over the life-threatening nature of a condition.
“I don’t like to see anybody turned down, but at the same time I want to maintain the integrity of our wish granting system,” she said. “If I see something that poses a question, we go back and make sure that we have indeed made the right decision.”
The annual Children’s Wish Home Lottery is the Foundation’s most important fundraising campaign. It started 24 years ago and this year’s lottery has two important milestones. It introduces the largest cash prize option ever of $1 million and the grand prize winner will have the option to take the prize in cash or use the funds to build a custom home anywhere in Saskatchewan.
“We are not tied to an actual home anywhere in any city because it is a custom-built million dollar home anywhere in Saskatchewan,” she said. “I think it’s finally become truly provincial after five years of trying to be provincial.”
In Swift Current, the annual Wishmaker Walk for Wishes will take place Oct. 5 at Riverside Park. To get involved or for more detail about the Saskatchewan chapter of the Children’s Wish Foundation, go to their website at: www.childrenswish.ca/en-sk/.

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