Wishin’ and Hopin’ – and Helpin’ Others

‘There’s a lot of kids out there who need us’ – Abe Almanza of The Wish House (seen in 1999 as a cancer patient enjoying his own granted wish of a family cruise) [credit] Photo provided
‘There’s a lot of kids out there who need us’ – Abe Almanza of The Wish House (seen in 1999 as a cancer patient enjoying his own granted wish of a family cruise) [credit] Photo provided 

Abraham Almanza’s journey with the Make-A-Wish Foundation began 25 years ago at age 17. When a routine medical screening led to a diagnosis of stage 4 lung cancer, his life was turned upside down. He battled the illness for two years and his medical team at Montefiore in the Bronx referred him to Make-A-Wish.   

The hope he was given by his wish made such an impact, he ended up working with the organization and rose through the ranks to get to where he is today – a quarter century later — in his role as Director of Marketing & Volunteer Management at The Wish House in Tarrytown. 

Abraham had no idea what it meant to be a wish kid when he was introduced to the organization in his youth, but today, he is living proof that Make-A-Wish is a powerful force for good in the community. His is 1 of 2,300 wishes granted in the Hudson Valley to date and he calls it a turning point in his life.

Planning the wish helped him shift his mindset. “Once my ports were removed, I wanted to experience my wish,” he explained. “It gave me something to look forward to. Waiting for the wish was a big source of hope.” 

His wish was a seven-day family cruise to the Bahamas and Bermuda over the Fourth of July holiday in 1999. “After everything I had gone through physically, emotionally and spiritually, it was just what my family and I needed,” he said. Spending joyful time together, outside the hospital, celebrating the wish meant everything. “Look at us now. We’re able to be together, jump in the water and have fun.”  

On Saturday April 6, from 12:30 pm – 4:30 pm, Peekskill Rotary will host a Red Carpet Fundraiser at Cortlandt Colonial Restaurant. Tickets are $75 with all proceeds benefiting Make-A-Wish Hudson Valley, which use the funds to grant wishes to local children in need of hope and support. One or more wishes are expected to be granted at the event. 

Abe says he learned in his youth that providing a child going through a major health challenge with a little bit of hope is a priceless gift. “I’m forever grateful and indebted to Make-A-Wish Hudson Valley,” he says.  

As a Wish Kid who has worked with the organization for 17 years, Abe is grateful to have Peekskill Rotary sponsor the April 6 fundraiser. He says it will help build awareness in the community for how businesses and individuals can volunteer and make charitable donations. 

The festivities at Cortlandt Colonial will include food, a DJ, performances, a silent auction and presentations by local Wish Kids like Abraham who will share their powerful personal stories. “Having an event like this where Wish Kids can share their experiences is a great call-to-action to help us grant more wishes,” Abraham says. “There’s a lot of kids out there who need us. We couldn’t do this work without resources from the local population.”  

He adds that “April is World Wish Month for Make-A-Wish, so we like to show the community how they can get involved.” The Peekskill Rotary Red Carpet Fundraiser kicks off a month of celebration that culminates in World Wish Day on April 29, commemorating the anniversary of the original wish in 1980 that inspired the creation of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.  

Abraham says, “All volunteers are welcome and when people visit the website, they won’t leave without being inspired. It’s uplifting to work with Make-A-Wish kids. They inspire me every day. When I talk about my wish, it feels like it happened yesterday.” 

Help Grant a Wish 

For more information on the Red Carpet Fundraiser event and to buy tickets, scan this QR code, or go to peekskillrotary.com/page/make-a-wish-fundraiser or register by email with Linda Murphy at lsmurphy813@gmail.com. To get involved with Make-A-Wish Hudson Valley, visit wish.org/hudson 



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About the Author: Steve Pavlopoulos