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Thursday, 01 September 2011 09:56

Children’s Wish Foundation fulfilling dreams for special youngsters

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By Aasa Marshall — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Life for children with life-threatening diseases and their families is far from easy, but with the help of the Children’s Wish Foundation, there is the fulfillment of a dream to look forward to when facing long months of treatment.

Started in nationally in 1984, and in Saskatchewan in 1986, The Children’s Wish Foundation provides children with high-risk illnesses and their families with something precious: a way to spend time together, creating happy memories.

Children between the ages of three and 17 are referred to the foundation often by hospital staff or others, and given free rein to choose a wish they would like fulfilled. Often they choose to travel, taking their entire family on a trip.

Mitch Minken, board member for the Saskatchewan chapter of the Children’s Wish Foundation, said Disneyland and Disneyworld are popular destinations, as are tropical places like the Bahamas and Hawaii. Meeting celebrities is another popular choice, he said, as is purchasing campers and other equipment so the family can go camping together.

Minken joined the foundation’s board because he has seen first-hand the power of receiving a wish. When his son Luke had cancer he received a wish for his family to go to Disneyworld together.

The experience is irreplaceable, Minken said. Some families are reluctant to receive a wish because they may not need financial assistance. However the program is less about money, and more about the experience the foundation can provide.

“You’re treated just like royalty,” Minken said, referring to his son’s experience at Disneyworld when he was nine years old. “You wear a Wish Foundation button and you’re just whisked to the front of the queue, and you’re treated fantastically. You can go to Disneyworld, but you can’t experience it that way. And that was so special for him, because he was the centre of attention; that’s the part you can’t replace. That’s the power of the wish.”

The foundation’s other power is offering children something to look forward to when they’re in the hospital or feeling sick, Minken said.

Allowing a child to spend time thinking about what they would like to wish for, and then anticipating receiving the wish, provides a distraction from the hardships they face.

Tragically, Minken’s son did not survive his battle with cancer, and the memories created during his Wish Foundation trip cannot be overstated.

“It really is a lifetime of memories for us,” Minken said.

The Children’s Wish Home Lottery is the main anchor of the foundation’s fundraising efforts: tickets purchased for $100 give buyers the chance to win one of 22 showhomes from the Saskatoon and Region Homebuilder’s Association.

Other fundraisers include the Walk for Wishes, which will take place in October in Swift Current this year, as well as events like Exile Island, where corporate sponsors create teams to raise money, and compete in ‘Survivor’-type events for a day.

The Children’s Wish Foundation is good at keeping its overhead costs low, said Minken, and about 85 per cent of the money raised goes directly towards granting wishes for children.

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