In 1980, Chris Greicius, a terminally ill boy in Arizona, was granted a wish to become a police officer for a day. That wish became a global movement that we know today as Make-A-Wish. “Chris was such a proud little boy,” said that boy’s mom Linda Pauling. “To him, with that badge, hat, everything, he was a policeman.”
Six years after that first wish, the Hudson Valley Make-A-Wish chapter, based in Tarrytown, was founded. It’s now one of 62 chapters in the U.S. and 55 international affiliates that have granted over 300,000 wishes.
Tom Conklin, President and CEO of Make-A-Wish Hudson Valley, keeps a picture of Chris on his desk as a daily reminder of the Make-A-Wish mission.
The Hudson Valley chapter covers Westchester and seven other counties and has granted close to 2800 wishes, with over 150 wishes pending.
When a child is referred to Make-A-Wish, the organization sends two trained wish-granters to the house to ask the child a series of questions asking for two answers to each.
- If you could be anything, what would you like to be
- If you could go anywhere, where would you like to go
- If you could have anything, what would you like to have
- If you could meet anyone, who would you like to meet
According to Conklin, this gives the child eight possible wishes. “The kid who’s been told when to go to bed, when to get up, when to take medicine, when to go to school, is now in charge. When the time comes, we give them two of their options to choose from and they make that choice. If the child’s doctor says the child can physically partake in that wish, then the magic happens.”
With an average cost of $7500-$10000 for each wish, the Hudson Valley Make-A-Wish chapter relies on generous corporate sponsorships, in-kind donations and support from the communities they serve. They don’t receive any government funding and 78% of the money raised goes directly to granting wishes.
On Friday, May 3, Make-A-Wish will hold their annual Wish Ball at the Sleepy Hollow Country Club. It is their biggest fund-raising event of the year. This year’s honoree is legendary Broadway composer Frank Wildhorn. In addition to music from Wildhorn and other Broadway stars, the Ball will include both a silent and live auction for items such as a foursome at Hudson National Golf Club and dinner for 12 in the Crabtree Kettle House wine tasting room as well as the opportunity for attendees to “adopt” wishes. And Linda Pauling, the first wish kid’s mom, will be in attendance.
“A wish is transformational,” noted Conklin. “When a wish is granted, it replaces fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope. That’s a good mission to be a part of.”
To buy tickets, find out about sponsorship opportunities or donate to the local Hudson Valley Make-A-Wish chapter, visit hudson.wish.org.