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Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024
The Observer

Students help dreams come true through the Make-A-Wish Foundation

The Make-A-Wish Club is the tri-campus community’s liaison to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a national nonprofit organization that gives grants to children between the ages of 2-and-a-half to 18 with life-threatening illnesses. The club also raises money and spreads awareness for the foundation and the children it serves. Each year, the club helps grant the wish of at least one child from the South Bend and Mishawaka area.

Seniors Julia Forte and Brooke Williams are co-presidents of the club, and have both been involved since their freshman year.

Photo courtesy of Julia Forte
Members of the Make-A-Wish Club accompany one of their "Wish Kids" on a shopping spree to Best Buy. The group aims to grant the wish of at least one child with a life-threatening illness in the South Bend and Mishawaka area.

Last year, the club helped grant the wish of a 17-year-old boy. His wish was to go on a shopping spree at Best Buy. The thousands of dollars that funded the trip were entirely raised by members in the club, Williams said.

“We all got to walk around the store with him. We had balloons and helped him pick out what he wanted,” Williams said. ”His smile was so precious. He was having such a great time. All of us then went out to lunch with him and his parents. It was such a great day.”

This year, the club was able to fulfill the wishes of two additional Make-A-Wish kids, since their wishes were affiliated with Notre Dame.

“This was one of my favorite events,” said Forte. “This was the first time during my time here that we’ve been able to be involved in a Notre Dame wish.”

The two teenage boys the club helped wished to spend the day with the Notre Dame football team.

“They participated in the Bowling Green player walk, met Brian Kelly and the team, toured campus and got to go on the field,” Forte said. “We made posters and cheered for them. It was really great to see them doing something they loved and dreamed about.”

In addition to helping make the dreams of Make-A-Wish kids come true, the club hosts a signature fundraiser talent show. Forte said the Make-A-Wish club hopes to expand the show moving forward.

“The show involves many campus groups including the band, dance and a cappella groups, magicians, jump roping — and really everything,” Forte said.

Other notable events include an annual card-writing campaign during the winter season to “Wish” children at Beacon’s Children’s Hospital happy holidays; Macy’s “Letters to Santa” fundraiser; hosting picnics with Make-A-Wish families and “Wish Kid” send-offs if the kids’ wish involves travel.

In the spring, the club plans to expand some of its recurring events as well as broaden its outreach to the South Bend community, Forte said.

“We want to do a ‘Taste of South Bend’ event in the spring and get local restaurants involved,” she said.

Kathleen Soller, a sophomore, is the “Wish Kid” coordinator for the club. Soller previously had lymphoma and was granted her wish to go on a Mediterranean cruise through the Make-A-Wish foundation.

As the “Wish Kid” coordinator, she helps pick out Make-A-Wish kid videos for the club to view at their weekly Wednesday meetings. She also aids in event planning and working with employees at the foundation’s regional office.

“It’s great to be able to give back to other kids,” Soller said. “People don’t realize how expensive the wishes can be.”

The club currently has about 20 active members and welcomes new ones to join.

“I feel so lucky to have been a part of the club all four years,” Williams said. “It has been so rewarding.”