The dream team: Making wishes come true

A life too soon ended is all the more tragic when a longed-for wish goes unfulfilled.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation (Toronto) is dedicated to completing dreams, providing joy- and laughter-filled memories that otherwise might never have been realized.

It’s part of an international network dedicated to helping children aged three to 18 facing life-threatening illnesses. Each chapter creates "wish teams" who make it all happen, whether it’s a trip to Disneyland for the child and family, or simply the chance to meet a favorite celebrity. Some children prefer to be "someone" for a day: a policeman, fireman, or model, perhaps; others ask for a special item such as a computer, television — or even a tree house. One volunteer who gives her time to the foundation likens her supporting role to that of a stagehand who handles props and scenery, making sure a theatrical production runs smoothly. Joanna Gaskin, 65 and retired, is happy she can apply her skills for a worthwhile cause. The first six months of retirement, prior to her becoming involved in volunteer work were, she says, "horrendous… it seemed like such a long day. I thought `I’ve got a lot of skill why not use them?’" Today, Gaskin uses her computer skills at the foundation’s office, overseeing tasks that otherwise might not get done.

The full cost of making a wish come true — usually between $3,000 and $5,000 — are completely covered for the child and any family members who are involved. "We depend upon in-kind gifts and donations from individuals and corporations," says Gail Clark, administrator/wish coordinator at the foundation. "And the generous gift of time from volunteers, foundation directors and celebrities."

The Toronto-based chapter covers a broad area: York, Peel, Halton, Niagara, Hamilton-Wentworth, Simcoe, Victoria, Muskoka, Haliburton, Peterborough, Northumberland, Parry Sound and Durham. World-wide, there are 17 countries affiliated with Make-A-Wish Foundation International, helping between 150,000 to 200,000 children and their families each year.

In striving to give ill children and their families a break from hospitals, doctors and treatment programs, the Make-A-Wish Foundation is always in need of volunteers, as well as financial support. It doesn’t solicit funding by phone or door-to-door, but donations are deductible for income tax purposes. To find out how you can help, call (416) 223-2620.