Volunteers needed to help grant wishes

Posted: Monday, March 19, 2001

Teresa Holt is looking for area volunteers to help grant wishes -- big wishes -- for those needing a boost.

"I go by head fairy godmother, around here," she said jokingly.

Holt is the wish manager for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Alaska based in Anchorage. The foundation grants wishes to children diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses.

Holt said 60 percent of the children in the program have cancer. Other illnesses include kids who are in need of organ transplants, those with muscular dystrophy and cystic fibrosis.

She said she is in search of eight individuals on the Kenai Peninsula who could help grant the wishes of children in need in Soldotna and Ninilchik.

To volunteer, a person must be 21 and willing to have a background check done by the Alaska State Troopers. Interested individuals also must fill out an application and attend an all-day training session held Saturday at the Anchorage Hilton Hotel.

The wish process begins when the foundation receives a referral from a hospital of someone between 2 1/2 and 17 years old.

The foundation then assigns volunteers who visit and bring gifts to the juvenile. The volunteers create a fun atmosphere while helping the kids figure out what they want to wish for.

"We like to say we make magic," Holt said.

There are four wish categories, they include:

n To go somewhere: Recipients often travel to a fun destination.

"The No. 1 choice is usually anything Disney," Holt said.

n To have something: Computers, playhouses and animals top the list of things to have.

Holt said a 5-year-old Fair-banks resident requested a castle in his backyard. Make-A-Wish found a large castle-playground to fulfill his wish.

n To meet someone: Requests often are to meet musicians, actors or professional athletes.

"Those are very popular wishes," she said.

n To be something: Some recipients want to be something for a day.

Holt recalled one boy who wanted to be a knight. A medieval- times dinner theater let the boy be a part of their show, and a special costume was designed for him.

"He was the knight in shinning armor for the night," she said.

Older kids often want to be actors or DJs, and Holt said the foundation makes the wishes come true.

For the more difficult wishes, the National Make-A-Wish Foundation steps in.

"That is a real benefit for us to be a part of a national organization," she said.

According to a press release, since the foundation opened the Alaska office a year ago this month, 23 wishes have been granted to children from Elim to Petersburg. Also, 17 children from other states have wished to visit Alaska, including a Georgia boy who's wish to ride with a musher at the start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race was granted.

Holt said last summer a boy wished to travel from his home in California to Haines to study eagles. His wish came true and his visit was beneficial to both him and the community.

"The young man captured the hearts of the community," she said.

Holt said the Haines community donated everything to make the wish come true. The mayor even gave the boy a key to the city.

Holt said that is the power of the wishes, that everyone gets to share the wish with the child.

Those interested in volunteering should call Holt toll free at (877) 510-9474 for more information.

Being a volunteer can brighten the world of a child and lend happiness to those who help.

"It is really fun to see not only the wish child's life touched, but everyone's else's life also," she said.

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