Class of 2017
(10/2013) When I was only four years old, my cousin was diagnosed with stage four Burkitt lymphoma. She was only nine years old at the time. I remember barely understanding the phone conversations that happened as a result. I was confused as to why we were going to Virginia so often when we normally only got to visit a few times a year. I was lost as
to why my cousin didnít have any hair anymore and wasnít always home. So many things were changing and everyone in the family was acting differently. However, my cousin never lost her spirit. She was treated at Fairfax County Hospital on a clinical trial medication. She went through a lot, but she had so much support. I remember the quilt her classmates made her, the love her
family gave, and the faith everyone had in her speedy recovery. She never backed down. She was always the rowdiest, loudest, and funniest of us all. Most importantly, she never let that go. Even at the age of nine, she knew she had to fight back.
She was recommended to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, an organization whose mission is to "grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy." This incredible organization realizes that it is not only the doctors or the medical treatment that make the children feel better.
Make-A-Wish takes the emotional route and makes a personís dream come true, no matter how absolutely crazy or small it might be. The donors and planners of the foundation have sent families to Hawaii, made little boys into cops and pilots, brought celebrities to meet patients, built personalized dollhouses, and sent my cousin skiing in Colorado.
A common misconception of the organization is that children have to be terminally ill, or that it is only for young children. Neither of these are true; Make-A-Wish will grant a wish to anyone between 2 Ĺ and 18 years of age, and anyone with a life-threatening condition, regardless of financial situation or any other factors. This organization changes
livesóone every 38 minutes to be exact. Having their craziest wishes come true gives the patients something to look forward to, to fight for, and to hold on to during the hardest time of their lives.
I donít remember every detail of my cousinís battle; I donít remember much honestly. But I do remember the "Annaís better, letís party!" t-shirts we made because she won. She beat a cancer she was never expected to live through. Make-A-Wish gave my cousin something to hold on to. I remember hearing all about how her wish was granted. Put simply, itís
amazing. From that time on I began to see and hear more about the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
In high school, I was the member of the student Senate. Each year we chose a cause to support, and my senior year we chose the Make-A-Wish Foundation. I was beyond excited when everyone voted in favor of this cause, and we were soon assigned a child in the area. His name was Colton, and we were asked to raise $4,000 to send him and his family on a
vacation to Hawaii. We learned all about his story, his life-threatening illness, and his wish. We never met Colton, or even learned his last name (as is policy for Make-A-Wish), but he became important to our entire student body. Everyone joined together and did their part to fundraise so that Colton could get to visit his dream destination. I designed t-shirts that were
sold to students, staff, and the communityóall proceeds benefitting Colton. We held dine-ins, a car wash, dress-down days, penny wars, and so much more. Everyone knew how important this was and the final amount raised was $4,699.98; we had exceeded our goal!
The best part was watching the entire school and community come together to make a boyís wish come true. Itís weird how certain things can bring a small town together. Things like football games, holidays, fire station barbeques, children, and sickness can all unite people. In this case, we were united by Colton. We didnít know him, he wasnít from our
town, and we didnít even know his last name, but everyone knew how important this was to him. They knew this might be his last wish, and most importantly, they knew the good this would bring him. Causes like my cousinís and Coltonís bring out the best in people and demonstrate the real meaning of community.
Working alongside Make-A-Wish was one of the best experiences Iíve ever had. I felt driven to remember my cousin while raising funds for Colton, but my inspiration was even simpler than that. I didnít just think this organization, its mission, and the effects it has on the patients are incredible because it was personal; the organization really is just
incredible. So incredible in fact that I believe I would have been equally as passionate in my support even if I had never heard of it before. It is an experience, really, working with them and an experience, Iím sure, being on the receiving end. Watching a community come together and being a part of something so life-changing was, in itself, life-changing for me, as well.
Read other articles by Lydia Olsen