Keene Family YMCA Partners with Make a Wish

Keene Family YMCA forms new partnership with Make-A-Wish® New Hampshire to help children facing critical illnesses in Cheshire County

The need for more local Make-A-Wish volunteers spurred the collaboration.

In an effort to help children facing critical illnesses in Cheshire County get their wish of a lifetime, the Keene Family YMCA has partnered with Make-A-Wish® New Hampshire to recruit much-needed local volunteers.

Make-A-Wish grants a wish every 4 days to a child in NH with a life-threatening medical condition. Since 1986, more than 1,535 wishes have been granted, including 62 Cheshire County children. In 2017, 4 local children were granted their wish. One challenges is a lack of available volunteers or Wish Granters here. There have never been more than two Wish Granters at any one time in Cheshire County, said Eliza Eaves, Volunteer Coordinator at Make-A-Wish NH.

Photo courtesy of Jill Grant

Jill and Vance Grant of Chesterfield know firsthand the power of Make-A-Wish. Their daughter Elizabeth, 5, was diagnosed with leukemia at age 3. Her disease is now in remission. “It came as a total shock,” Jill said. As Elizabeth’s chemotherapy treatment entered its second year, oncology doctors at Dartmouth-Hitchcock in Lebanon referred her to Make-A-Wish. “All she wanted was to meet Moana (from the Disney movie) in Hawaii and Make-A-Wish made it happen,” said Jill. “When I saw Elizabeth hugging Moana, I burst into tears. It was a wonderful experience for all of us. We hadn’t been on vacation since Elizabeth got sick. This was a time for us to reconnect as a family.”

Jill noted, however, that Elizabeth’s two wish granters had to travel from the Seacoast to visit the family. “Our wish granters were wonderful but how cool would it be to have a local wish granter?” asked Jill, who intends to become a volunteer as soon as possible. “I know of two kids in our community who need a wish granter. This is absolutely a manageable time commitment. Besides, you’re providing smiles to kids going through a critical illness. Why wouldn’t you want to be part of that?”

Wish granters meet a family at the beginning of the wish experience to better understand the child’s most heartfelt wish. The volunteers are assisted by Make-A-Wish staff and are involved in the hands-on planning of the child’s wish.  A wish granter must be 21 or older, be able to pass a background check, and completes a two hour in-person and a two-hour online training.

Make-A-Wish’s plea for help struck a chord with YMCA CEO Hélène Mogridge. “If a child makes a wish, I want the Y to help make this wish come true so we can bring a little happiness into their lives,” she said. “I have a personal connection to critical illness. My son was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer in 2016. Our family went through a really tough time. Knowing that Make-A-Wish can help others through tough times would mean a lot to me and to our whole Y family. The Y was founded on volunteerism which is why we are partnering with Make-A-Wish to make wishes come true in our community.”

The new partnership will involve the Y hosting Make-A-Wish information tables at its facility on Summit Road where volunteers can sign-up as well as joint marketing and education opportunities. Eaves said the Make-A-Wish/YMCA pairing makes sense. “Our organizations have similar visions of bringing communities together to create healthier lifestyles for NH residents from all walks of life,” she said. “We are hoping by creating a fabulous group of volunteers we will be able to reach every eligible child in the area.”

Make-A-Wish relies on medical professionals, parents and children themselves for referrals.

To receive a wish, the child must be diagnosed with a critical illness (i.e., a progressive, degenerative or malignant condition that has placed the child’s life in jeopardy). The types of wishes that have been granted in NH range from meeting former professional racing driver Danica Patrick to learning how to be a puppeteer and going to Disney World.

According to a 2011 Make-A-Wish America Study, a wish that comes true empowers children to fight harder against their critical illnesses:

  • 96% of parents said that the wish experience strengthened their families.
  • Parents and medical professionals described the wish experience as a frequent turning point in wish kids’ battles for health.
  • 99% of parents reported that the wish experience gave their children increased feelings of happiness.
  • Patients felt better and complied more readily with difficult, but vital treatments when they experienced their wish come true.
  • The wish granting process heightened volunteers’ ability to see the best in others, and their commitment to actively help more people in need.
  • 92% of volunteers felt an increased desire to give back and help someone else’s family.

To become a Make-A-Wish NH volunteer, please contact Eliza Eaves at 603-792-3104 or eliza.eaves@nh.wish.org or the Development & Community Impact Office at the Y at 603-283-5580.

About Renee Woliver

Renee Woliver is the Marketing Director at the Keene Family YMCA.
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