Since 1980, the Make-A-Wish Foundation has been working on their mission to provide children suffering from life-threatening medical conditions with the opportunity to make their dreams come true. The foundation has granted wishes for more than 300,000 children since its inception.
The very first wish was granted to Christopher James Greicius who dreamed of becoming a police officer. This sparked the largest wish-granting organization in the world and since then, thousands of children who battle terminal illness have had their their dreams come true. Everything from going to Disney World, to becoming an honorary cowboy, sparks new vitality and life in children undergoing treatment.
Every wish is touching on a deep, human, and personal level. Here, though, we've found some of the most heart-warming and unusual cases of wishes granted within the last decade. Each one is a testament to the success of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and demonstrates how happiness is possible even in the face of tremendous adversity.
15 Become a Cowboy
Joe Joe was diagnosed with neuroblastoma when he was 2-years old and received treatment ever since. Stephanie Hampton-Boeglin, director of Mission Delivery for Make-A-Wish Missouri, said that Joe Joe is the only boy who has ever wished to become a cowboy. It’s a wish the foundation had no problem granting.
His special day started with a personal limo ride, and more than 2000 balloons greeted him at his destination. Joe Joe was given the full wardrobe of a cowboy and headed to the fairgrounds to ride horses and barrel race. The family was touched by such a simple pleasure. “When cancer enters your life the way it has for our family, you see your community, your churches rally around you because they know you, they love you,” said Thomas Charles, Joe Joe’s father.
14 Bedroom Makeover
Make-A-Wish Foundation and Ikea joined forces to make 6-year old Dahlia’s wish a reality. The two groups turned her bedroom into a fortress fit for a princess. Dahlia’s favourite color is pink and her favorite princess is Sleeping Beauty. Ikea donated all of the furnishings and material to the foundation and the Ikea staff worked in kind to assemble the products. As a result, her bedroom was given the princess makeover of a lifetime. Dahlia could not contain her happiness when the bedroom was finally revealed.
13 Attend a Horse Model Conference
Ariel Nelson loves horses and horse stable models. Her basement is the home of her personal stable model collection and about 30 8-inch horses. The 11-year old loves horses and models so much, her wish was to visit BreyerFest, the three-day horse model conference in Lexington, Kentucky. Ariel had suffered from a rare brain tumor since she was three. It was removed, but the tumor returned, and was removed again. The trip was perfect timing, coming as it did just before she was to begin a lengthy treatment with medications that would drain her energy. Nelson got a personal riding lesson as part of the day’s activities.
12 Personal Life-Sized Dollhouse
The "small" wishes always seem the most heart warming, like when Juliana Urbach received her very own “life-sized” doll house in her backyard. It was painted all purple, her favorite color. According to her parents, the first thing Juliana does when she wakes up is put on her pajamas, run down the stairs, and start to play in the new house. Her parents outfitted the space with scaled furniture that Juliana can move around as she pleases. Unlike many other wishes that may seem fleeting, the playhouse will last for years, giving Juliana the happiness she deserves for a long time.
11 Tour of KingsIsle Gaming Studio
Little Ryan, a boy diagnosed with brain cancer, didn’t want to go to Disney World like many kids: He wanted to tour his favorite video game studio, KingsIsle. He was granted honorary status as a video game producer. He and his family were given all-access tours of the studio where Ryan got to experience a video recording session, a gaming play session with developers, and the chance to learn about each department. The gaming studio went above and beyond for Ryan when they surprised him at the end of the day with his own personal video game: Ryan the Relentless - the game even featured voice recordings from Ryan himself. Ryan’s family said the day was tremendously important.
10 Create a Personal Video Game
Even while battling a life-threatening illness, Ben asked the Make-A-Wish Foundation if he could make a video game to help other kids fight cancer. The wish was granted without question. However, there was some worry, as video games require perhaps millions of dollars and years of development. Eric Johnston of LucasArts stepped in. Eric consulted with a medical doctor to make Ben’s vision of a video game come to life. For Ben, it was important the game resemble chemotherapy where players battle against malignant cells. The University of California at San Francisco’s Children’s Hospital was the first to install the game for cancer patients.
9 VIP Treatment at Gettysburg
For this wish, Trey Meyer brought his family 600 miles from his home to Gettysburg. A history buff, Trey was given VIP treatment at Gettysburg, a monumentally historical site in the American Civil War. Trey, 14-years old, had been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis and doctors estimated he wouldn't live past 40-years old. But that was the last thing on Trey’s mind when he had an aerial view of the Gettysburg Anniversary Committee re-enactment. The day was special for more than just Trey. His family and the re-enactors were filled with joy at seeing Trey’s wish come true.
8 Go to Walt Disney World Resort
This list would not be complete without one of the most common wishes: going to Walt Disney World. This wish was granted to Emily: Battling her illness with chemotherapy left her “listless and defeated” but her true self shined when she met her wish granters and began her visit to the Walt Disney World Resort. She was able to meet all her favorite characters and never had to stand in line for a ride. Emily was dressed in a princess outfit with her very own crown during the entire trip.
7 Meet Donovan McNabb of the Minnesota Vikings
Caleb loves football. He followed Minnesota Vikings player Donovan McNabb for years. He was finally given the chance to meet him in person when he arrived at the Vikings’ Training Facility in Minnesota where he was allowed to help the coach give pointers to players during practice. It was there that Caleb met a number of players and got their autographs. The next day, Caleb and his family watched a Vikings home game where he was able to see McNabb play up close. The entire experience was a dream come true for Caleb.
6 Meet WWE Wrestler John Cena
J.J. had been battling neuroblastoma for years. One day, before WWE’s Monday Night Raw event, J.J.'s wish came true when he was escorted to the stadium in a limo. He could hardly contain his excitement as he ran to the backstage area where he was given a big bag of swanky WWE merchandise. Wrestler John Cena sat down and chatted with J.J. like he has with over 70 kids who wished to meet him.
5 VIP Treatment at MLB All-Star Game
Not one but seven Make-A-Wish children received VIP treatment at a Major League Baseball All-Star game in new York City. Hosted by the New York Mets, the event welcomed seven children from around the country to have full access to every attraction including the All-Star FanFest, Sunday's Sirius XM All-Star Futures Game, Monday's Chevrolet Home Run Derby, and Tuesday's All-Star Game. Not only was it a dream come true for the children, it was also a rewarding experience for the players who felt lucky to meet the kids. "It's always nice to give back," Jordan Lennerton said. "All the people you see at the ballgame, you never get a chance to make a personal relationship with them, so it's nice to able to come to events like that and give back to people who really deserve it."
4 A Day with the Stanley Cup
According to hockey legend, kissing the priceless Stanley Cup can bring untold good fortune. Professional hockey players train for decades for the chance to hold the cup above their heads. For Logan Piz, a 13-year old diagnosed with terminal cancer, to hold the Stanley Cup was his only wish. Logan was allowed to spend the day with the trophy and he reportedly couldn’t stop crying. He told reporters, though, that he was the happiest when he got to see other people touch and kiss the cup: At the end of the day, Logan and his family took a limo to a rink where community members bought tickets (proceeds of which went to support medical treatments) to see the cup up close.
3 Meeting an Actual Wolverine
It may seem unusual, but a wish is a wish. Cason Vandehey suffered from a rare lung disease that had doctors baffled. One of the only things that made him happy throughout his illness was documentaries about wolverines — usually considered a vicious animal, but one that Carson loved. The Make-A-Wish Foundation made Carson’s simple wish a reality when they flew him and his family first class to Alaska. While there, he got the chance to come face-to-face with a captive wolverine for the very first time. He was ecstatic. “It was incredible,” he said. “I’m surprised it didn’t rip off my face.” Carson’s next goal is to meet a cheetah.
2 Managing the Oakland A’s
Jannelle James, from Derby, California, had her dream come true when she saw the Oakland A's battle the Boston Red Sox. Jannelle was diagnosed with Leukemia when she was only 13-years old and immediately began treatment. At 17-years old, she finally went into remission before graduating from her high school with honours.
She dreamed of becoming the first female major league baseball player throughout her illness and was given the experience of a lifetime when she met her favourite players, toured the colosseum and watched the game from a private box.
1 One-on-One Basketball with LeBron James
There is, perhaps, no bigger fan of basketball then Thiago D’Elia, a 15-year old high school student who was tragically diagnosed with cancer in 2010. His body began to deteriorate in front of friends and family after 6 months of aggressive chemo treatment. Weak, tired, and ill, Thiago still managed to make it to the local basketball games to support his team. Thankfully, the chemo treatment worked.
There was no sign of cancer in his body but he hadn't yet received a “cancer free” diagnosis when his wish to meet famed Miami Heat all-star LeBron James was granted. Not only did he meet James, he was given a private tour of the stadium, received his own locker and gear, and even played one-on-one with his favorite player. He was given a haul of signed memorabilia and capped off the day with court-side seats to a game. Thiago is now happily completely cancer free.