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Pat Pobst, Fargo, Published January 16 2014

Letter: It’s how wishes bring joy

I read the letter from a writer who seemed bitter over critically ill children receiving a wish granted by Make-A-Wish Foundation of North Dakota.

For 25 years, I have had the privilege of being associated with this organization in different capacities, as a wish-parent, a member of the board of directors, and volunteer working on fundraisers and serving children and their families on their wish teams.

The ultimate wish a parent has when their child is diagnosed with a serious illness is to trade places with their child. Our son was 3 years old when he was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor for which he received extensive radiation and chemotherapy treatments over a 28-month period. When Matthew should have been enjoying life as a little boy, he was faced with hospital visits, CAT scans and the challenges of feeling normal. Because of the uniqueness of his illness, we traveled to Rochester and Michigan for treatments and surgeries over several years.

Twenty-five years ago, I remember vividly the first time the Make-A-Wish volunteer came to our home and asked, “Matthew, if you had one wish, what would you wish?” At first he said he wanted to meet Pee Wee Herman, but we told him he was on a hiatus. His second wish was for a basketball hoop, and the next day a neighbor rolled one into our backyard. His third wish was granted by Make-A-Wish of ND, doing what we as parents couldn’t do for our son. They arranged for Matthew to meet his hero, Kirby Puckett. As a 29-year-old survivor of cancer, Matt continues to reminisce over memories of a wish come true.

As a board member, I observed firsthand how this organization has grown to influence our community by supporting families and the needs of their critically ill children. Make-A-Wish of ND safeguards funds that are raised while ensuring that wishes are carried out with the wish-child at the forefront of their decisions. I have watched Make-A-Wish grow into an organization that welcomes volunteers. I see a team of people working together to fulfill the goals of their foundation in our community and throughout the state – staff, board of directors and volunteers exemplify the meaning behind the slogan “share the power of a wish.”

One of my greatest joys as a volunteer has been to observe children embrace a friend while they helped make their friend’s dream come true. It has been incredible to see children selflessly raise money and cheer their friend on to enjoy a wish of a lifetime. I have been involved with several wish-children, but two I want to share with you are Moira and Ian, who attended the same Fargo elementary school.

Moira was supported by her fifth-grade classmates when they helped turn lemons into lemonade with a lemonade stand at the school carnival. The money they raised was presented to Make-A-Wish of ND at a school assembly to celebrate Moira and her family as they prepared for their sendoff to Hawaii. This was a dream vacation where Moira and her family could swim with the dolphins instead of going to the doctor or being hospitalized for another treatment.

Ian was in first grade when he was diagnosed with cancer and was in second grade when he was granted his wish for a computer and games to take with him for entertainment while in the hospital. His school raised money for Make-A-Wish of ND by displaying buckets with the theme “Illuminate Ian’s Wish.” The school cheered Ian and his family at an assembly where he was presented with his wish. Sadly, the children watched Ian lose his battle to cancer a year later.

Moira and Ian taught their friends and teachers more than any textbook ever could. Moira and Ian taught their school community that a wish can bring hope, strength and joy to a child and their family.

Make-A-Wish is not about extravagance or luxury. It is about a critically ill child receiving joy while taking time out from scans, treatments, surgeries and hospital visits. It’s about giving a family strength to see their child experience what they cannot give.

I encourage Karen Beltran, who wrote the Dec. 30 letter to The Forum, to share in the “power of a wish” by getting involved with this fine organization to see what it is about. It could change her life.