Make-A-Wish Foundation Representative Russell Boyette was the featured speaker for the September meeting of Suqualena Community Development Club.
Boyette began his presentation with a brief history of the organization. Make-A-Wish Foundation was founded in 1980, through the inspiration of a 7-year-old Phoenix, Ariz., boy with leukemia who wanted to be a police officer. A group of officers from the Arizona Department of Public Safety granted the boy's wish by giving him a custom-made uniform, helmet, badge and a helicopter ride.
"This young boy's delight in having his wish granted inspired the group to form this organization that would grant the special wishes of other children," Boyette said.
Make-A-Wisn's mission is to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy. Today, there are 78 chapters within the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Mississippi was founded in 1974 in memory of a little girl who lived in Gulfport. After she was diagnosed with a terminal illness, a group of caring individuals raised funds to send her, along with her mother and grandmother, to Disney World. Moved by the generosity of those who contributed their time and money, the family and others felt the need to reach out to other families facing similar circumstances. The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Mississippi became the 36th chapter chartered by the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America, Boyette said.
Requests may be made by parents, legal guardians, the child, social workers, child life specialists, physicians, nurses or other medical professionals involved in the care of the child.
Volunteers from the local area form wish teams that coordinate the wish. A wish team is assigned to visit with the child and family to determine the wish. Upon approval, the wish team goes to work creating the magic.
"Usually the wish is limited only by the child's imagination," Boyette said.
The chapter does, however, have established policies and guidelines to assist in wish granting. These assure all children that qualify have a positive experience without the threat of danger and also ensures the integrity of the Foundation.
Any child between the ages of 2 1/2 and 18 years who has been determined by a physician to have a life-threatening illness and who has not been granted a wish previously is eligible. Make-A-Wish grants wishes to all eligible children regardless of race, religion or socio-economic status.
All wish expenses are fully covered, including any travel and spending money.
The local average cost for granting a wish is $5,000 However, wish costs vary and may be more or less expensive than this average, Boyette said.
Disney World was the most requested wish for last year. However, computers were a very close second. Most wish requests fall into four major categories: "I want to go..."," I want to be...", "I want to meet...," or "I want a ..."
Volunteers are the foundation of this organization and the majority of the work is done by these dedicated individuals. They are used in wish granting, fundraising and various other services such as clerical assistance.
Make-A-Wish relies on the generous contributions of individuals, schools, civic organizations, and businesses. It does not solicit by phone or door-to-door but hosts special events state-wide to raise money, Bennett said.
The meeting was called to order by Annette Palmer, president. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Joann Kimbrell. Faye Horne presented the devotional taken from 1 Corinthians: 13.
After dinner, the club met for a business session. Joann Kimbrell read the minutes of the last meeting. Committees reported 91 boxtops and 35 soup labels were collected.
Yard of the Month honors were presented to Janet Reeves.
The nominating committee announced new officers for the 2014 year: Janet Reeves, president; Joane Mackey, vice president; Joann Kimbrell, secretary; Rachel :Lott, treasurer; and Annette Palmer, reporter.
The door prize was won by Al Kimbrell.
The October meeting will be a show-and-tell presentation by members.
• Submitted by Janet Reeves, reporter.