Friday, 4 October 2013

Making Wishes Come True

Lethbridge Sun Times, October 2, 2013

Lethbridge residents will have the opportunity to make dreams come true for children undergoing treatment for illness through the first ever local Wishmaker Walk for Wishes

The walk, being held Oct. 20 at Henderson Lake Park, is for all ages and abilities and will raise funds for the Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada.

“Nationally, it is the single most important fundraising event of the year for us,” says event organizer Elisha Jackson. While the walk has been held for many years in communities across Canada, this marks the first time it is being held in Lethbridge.

She says the organization grants three wishes every day across Canada, which translates to about one wish every three days in Alberta. 

In 1984, the organization granted its first wish to a young boy who wanted to meet Mr. T from the hit TV show “The A-Team.” 

Almost 30 years later, it granted its 20,000th wish with the help of the Toronto Blue Jays, when Kelsey Panton threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the game against the Baltimore Orioles recently.

“Each wish typically costs $10,000, so the more money we raise the more wishes we can give,” says Jackson.

Jackson says the Wishmaker Walk will also help the organization keep its profile in the community following the cancellation of another Children’s Wish fundraiser — the Giant Pumpkin Festival, which has been held at Green Haven Garden Centre for the past 24 years.

“We’re certainly going to miss the pumpkin festival — it was a wonderful event,” Jackson says. “However, we’re hoping we can keep a strong presence in the community with the Wishmaker Walk.”

Registration for the walk will start at 1 p.m., but participants can register beforehand online at the Children’s Wish website if they want. Walkers can register as individuals or teams for either one- or five-kilometre distances.

The walk will kick off at 2 pm, led by a three-year-old Lethbridge resident who had his own personal wish come true this past March.

Jackson says the boy, Gunner, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia a month before he turned three years old. This form of cancer causes white blood cells to multiply, at a rapid rate, within the bone marrow, and spread to other organs. 

Gunner’s illness required him to undergo chemotherapy, which led to his love of the movie “Cars” from watching it while having treatments. Gunner’s mother requested that her son be given the opportunity for a wish, which was to meet the Lightning McQueen and Mater characters from the movie. 

Through the Children’s Wish Foundation, Gunner’s dream came true as he travelled to Anaheim with his family to meet the characters in Carsland, and visit Legoland and Sea World. 

“He’s a wonderful ambassador, who will kick off this race with his mom,” says Jackson. “It’s going to be a fun-filled day for the whole family.”

Walkers will be eligible for various prizes such as gift cards and hats for every $100 they raise during the event. And as a grand prize, Alberta walkers will have their names entered into a draw for a $1,000 Visa gift card for every $100 raised.

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