When I first came up with the idea of starting a nonprofit, all I knew for certain is that it would be focused on children and families in need, and somehow connected to education. Eventually, it became obvious to me that access to resources and opportunities outside of the classroom, which support academics in the classroom, would make a real impact on kids whose families couldn’t afford that kind of luxuries. I, along with a handful of friends, hashed out the what, when, where and how of it all, and somehow came up with the name The Wish List Project.
Over the last four years, I’ve become very familiar with the positives and negatives of choosing that name. For example, we’ve been mistaken for the online retailer Wish.com, as well as the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Of course, if we had the kind of budget they have, we could have our own building with programming space and fully paid staff. And someday we will.
Today, I visited The Wishing Place. Jennifer Stolo, CEO of Make A Wish of Northeastern California and Northern Nevada invited me to take a tour of their amazing site nestled among upscale residences in Natomas. It houses their office space upstairs where all the “fairies” work, but downstairs is where the magic really shines through. The lobby invites you in to view photos on the walls and displayed in albums on the coffee table. Major donors are listed among the stars on the walls. Look up and colorful stars are suspended from the ceiling. Behind the giant wooden door is where children with life-threatening medical conditions are able to forget about their illness for a little while in preparation for their wish. Children are referred by medical staff or family members and then invited to spend a few hours with a staff member who asks them, “If you could wish for anything, what would it be?” A special box, a scroll, a video and drawing activities help each child to determine the answer. And then comes the best part, they make their wish by throwing their scroll into a big stone wishing well, just like Snow White’s.
When I walked out of that special place about an hour later, I sat in my car and jotted down all the ideas that overflowed from my brain. Honestly, when I and the other founders came up with the name The Wish List Project, we never even made the connection to what Make A Wish was doing. The only real similarity is that a grant is being received by a child. And yet, after my visit today, I can make all kinds of connections, especially the power and impact of it all.
Thank you Jennifer for your time and your willingness to share the true meaning of a WISH.