“I had a completely different perception of them. I would see them on the news or on Facebook. I would see them do a bunch of nice things for terminally ill kids,” recalls VanDyke. “I would always think, ‘That’s really nice, but could that money have been better spent somewhere else?’”
Make-A-Wish Utah’s development officer, Summer Ehrmann, says misconceptions like VanDyke’s are common. “One of the challenges we face is that many people know of Make-A-Wish, but not many truly understand what we do or why we do it. One misconception is that Make-A-Wish is a ‘final wish’ granting organization, and nothing could be further from the truth,” she says. “We do grant wishes for terminally ill children, but not every child we serve is terminal.”
VanDyke’s perception of Make-A-Wish was completely changed when Ehrmann reached out and offered a meeting where ALV Mortgage could learn more about Make-A-Wish. “During that meeting, we learned that Make-A-Wish is really part of the treatment that gives the kids hope and something to look forward to,” VanDyke says.
Since partnering with the Make-A-Wish Utah team in January, VanDyke has set a goal to raise $100,000 for Make-A-Wish Utah. He is also matching $50,000 of the donations. So far, they have raised $74,150.
VanDyke has been taking ALV Mortgage partners and companies they work for on a tour of Make-A-Wish Utah’s building in Murray.
“The Make-A-Wish building was really well designed,” he says. “The design actually tells a story. I’ve enjoyed taking my friends and coworkers and companies I work with through the Make-A-Wish building and telling the Make-A-Wish story, and letting them know more about Make-A-Wish. I think that’s been my favorite part—taking people on tours and educating them.”
Ehrmann says that the partnership with ALV Mortgage has been an incredible blessing.
“We grant life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses, and Anthony’s partnership has really put them together. Without folks like Anthony, without his passionate leadership in this campaign, many children would still be waiting for their wish today.”
The Power of Wishes
According to Ehrmann, more than 230 kids throughout Utah are waiting for a wish to be granted—an important mission since studies have shown that granting wishes to ill children helps in their recovery.
In 2018, Dr. Anup Patel, the section chief of neurology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, discovered that wishes granted positively affected the patients he saw in the Complex Epilepsy Clinic at Nationwide Children’s. He found that when wishes were granted, patients’ quality of life improved, and they got a break from their illness. Families also spent less on healthcare, even after accounting for the average cost of a wish.
In a similar study published by Pediatric Research, patients who had a wish granted were 2.5 times more likely to have fewer unplanned hospital admissions. Patients were also 1.9 times more likely to not have to use the emergency department.
Stories of Hope
Ehrmann says that 89 percent of children who receive a wish go on to live full and satisfying lives. She then shared an example of a recent Make-A-Wish Utah recipient, whose wish was to renovate her bedroom. Make-A-Wish Utah’s W.I.S.H Society got together to grant her wish and shopped for every item on her list. Once her wish was complete, the W.I.S.H society got together with her and her family to celebrate.
“The most touching part was when her father stood up with tears in his eyes to thank the crowd for the hope, the joy, and the inspiration that his child had found after having been referred to Make-A-Wish because during his child’s treatments, when things got really hard, she would go online and work on the design for her room,” recalls Ehrmann. “She would shop for the items for her bedroom. He said that every time she did that, she felt a little better and that the wish is what got her through. He said, ‘That wish saved my daughter’s life.’ It was the most touching experience.”
While VanDyke hasn’t been involved with the wishes directly, he has been able to interact with some of the children and hear some of their stories. “One story is about a young teenager, and he had been diagnosed with a critical illness. He was really just angry—angry at the world, angry at the illness, angry at life around him. He was just trying to deal with that at that young age, and he wasn’t complying with his doctor’s treatments,” VanDyke shares. “Eventually, he went through the wish process, and a wish was granted. But for him to be able to get the wish, he had to reach certain milestones with his illness. He completely changed his attitude. He changed how he complied with the doctors, knowing that if he went to these appointments, and if he got stuck with a bunch of needles or had to go through all these different treatments that were terrible, there was something at the end of the tunnel.”
A Brighter Tomorrow
Ehrmann explains that another misconception folks have is that a wish only affects the child. In actuality, the wish affects the child and their immediate family, and even the community.
“Make-A-Wish comes into a child’s life at the darkest, perhaps most terrifying moment of their life and gives them the one thing that they can control—the one choice that they have in their lives,” she says. “A wish promises a brighter tomorrow for the entire family.”
To help Anthony VanDyke and ALV Mortgage raise $100,000 for Make-A-Wish Utah, visit alvmtg.com/wish.
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