Week 33 - Make-A-Wish UK
We all have dreams. You know, those ones as a child that we never quite actualised. Wanting to be a princess, a fireman, or even an astronaut. Where every single day you woke up and wished and prayed as hard as you could for it to come true. Then, as you got older and the world became a little more real every day that hope and dream of it ever coming true faded into the distance of ever looming reality, never having that opportunity to fulfil those childhood fantasies.
But, one organisation grant those very wishes, to the most deserving of children.
(Image courtesy of Make-A-Wish UK)
Make-A-Wish UK grants magical wishes to seriously ill children across the UK and are part of the world's largest wishgranting organisation, Make-A-Wish International. And this week I was at their UK HQ.
When you see a child who has, say cancer, your heart bleeds. The cold feeling of trying to even comprehend your own child having such a condition makes you sick to your stomach. And naturally you would do everything in your power to take that away. But despite all the relentless hospital appointments, yo-yoing of treatments and god knows what else, the strain, naturally would take its toll.
But in the wilderness of this unknown and sometimes seemingly bleak landscape lies a magical charity that for a few moments, hours and even days take away those feelings and replace them with that of joy. Make-A-Wish grants whatever wish a child with a life threating condition desires, no matter how crazy, how mad, how out of this world it is; they go above and beyond to make it happen.
As you walk into their office you get a sense of this magic. With their brightly colours quotes on the wall to a soft buzz of excitement; it's the wonderland of charities. But what struck me beyond anything was how small it was. Maybe I had ideas above my station but considering their incredible brand; I expected them to be bigger than they are. Maybe even in my wildest fantasy people walking around with magic wands. But, in reality it's a hive of incredibly passionate, dedicated and creative people who live and breathe making the impossible, possible. And that's what's important. Making sure that as much money donated from each pound goes to where it needs to go, the kids.
But interestingly enough they don't actually serve a cause. In that I mean the fight for cancer, or Parkinson's, or conservation. They just do incredibly nice things for incredibly deserving children; so I guess a question on all of your minds is;
"Why are Make-A-Wish important?"
Yes. It's lovely and heart-warming. Yes - it makes you smile and feel fuzzy, but other than spending money on kids to make them feel better, what is it that they do?
Hope - they give hope. If you're reading this and have ever personally or been around anyone with a life-threatening condition, you will understand how it can devastate your life. You will completely get the pain and trauma that can sometimes last for years. Going through the toughest time, hoping to see a tiny glimmer of a light at the end of that very long tunnel.
What if there was someone, who for even a day could take all of those worries away. They come into your life, swoop you up and make you forget, temporarily, that all of this was going on. Isn't that worth more than anything else? I think it is.
It's that simple act of kindness, that extended gesture to those in need that make what Make-A-Wish do, so very special.
No, they don't cure cancer, they don't give a loved one a second chance, they don't take away any financial burden, and they don't even claim to make a difference to your day-to-day life. But what they do is give a child a moment to forget; a moment of joy among the thick forest of constant hospital appointments and medication; a simple gesture to make the journey more bearable.
And that is why I requested to be here. Make-A-Wish was not on my original list. But, I gave up a week's holiday to visit them. Because what this charity does is so inline with what I have done myself; going into society and making people smile. I had to spend time with them.
I have to say I wasn't disappointed. When you sit with the wish granters and see the list of, what I thought were almost impossible requests, and how they calmly filter through and make it happen was quite frankly nothing short of inspiring. Like wanting to meet Beyonce; I can only imagine how many people across the world want to meet her, but for them; just another day at work. Making arrangements down to the smallest minute detail to ensure that the wish was above and beyond in every single way.
This was across the board. From putting small toys and a little spending money in the wish packs to upgrading seats to sports matches, no stone was left un-turned. What was also incredible was the level of care and detail given to every child. If they want to be a snow princess, fake snow is found to cover their house. If somebody wants to fly, they find a hoisting company to whoosh them around a warehouse. If they want a simple iPad, dinner is arranged to celebrate, with a limo to take them to and from the venue. No matter what a child wishes, it is granted with the highest level of detail to ensure that they never, ever forget how special they are.
They may not dress in fairy outfits, but these guys are the true Fairygod mothers and fathers of the country!
But this level of care and attention comes at a cost. Wishes are not the cheapest of endeavours, especially when children request to go to on a once-in-a-lifetime family holiday or own a spa pool. So the charity are doing their best to ensure they can continue to generate funds and increase them going forward. Right now they only grant wishes within Europe, to ensure that they have enough money to fulfil all 1,000 wishes.
But what excites me is where the charity is going. At the moment they turn over just shy of £7m a year. But with 20,000 children in the UK with life-threatening conditions, there are plenty more kids out there in need of a wish!
So whilst I was with them this week it was announced that they are one of the 3 ITV Text Santa charities. An incredible opportunity to showcase the inspirational work they do on a daily basis to the entire nation. It's this type of national publicity that is a jackpot win for a charity of this size and a real game changer for the organisation. Sarah, who is leading the campaign, is doing a stellar job and with her now leading the Text Santa initative the sky really is the limit.
I left elated, walking back to my car with a huge smile plastered across my face. Yes - I did my little bit to help but to be frank they don't need much help at all. With their new CEO Jason now firmly in post and a whole host of new employees I can see a very bright and more magical future for the charity. I can't wait to sit and watch ITV Text Santa now!