Make-A-Wish is helping more East Texans than ever

Londyn Turner, 5, hand painted two works of art as a thank you to gift to sponsors during the inaugral Wine and Wishes fundraiser for Make-A-Wish North Texas Thursday, Oct. 29. Londyn received her wish last December. (Cory McCoy/Staff)

Officials with the Tyler Make-A-Wish office, which grants wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses, said the organization has made great strides in increasing the number of wishes it has been able to grant since the office was restaffed last February.

Its inaugural Wine and Wishes event raised $42,000 dollars - nearly enough to grant five extra wishes in the 2016 fiscal year. The average wish costs $9,000 to grant and the Northeast Texas chapter granted 74 in the 2015 fiscal year, according to the Tyler office's development officer Amy Pearson

Make-A-Wish also is seeing increases in third-party fundraisers, such as one conducted by the Tyler Junior College leadership class.

"Tyler Junior College has a leadership class which raises money every semester for Make-A-Wish," Pearson said. "They had seen a 60-minute segment explaining how some Arkansas volunteers started a ‘Day of Wishes,' where they basically did a change drive and collected from multiple locations around the city."

The TJC leadership class decided to try its hand at a similar fundraiser and pulled in $1,600 from locations all over Tyler.

On Nov. 28, True Vine Brewing Company hosted an open tap event, donating the proceeds to Make-A-Wish.

"They do open taps once a month anyway, and they try to give back to the community by benefitting local nonprofits, so this month is Make-A-Wish," Pearson said.

Pearson said the increases are due in part to the office's ability to network with potential donors, something that was not possible when they didn't have a team in the community.

"It's been a challenge. It's kind of like starting from ground zero, but it's also been a lot of fun to tell people about Make-A-Wish and clear up misconceptions about our mission," Pearson said. "So many people think it's only for terminal children; it's not. We're very specific that it's (for children with) life-threatening medical conditions."

Macy's also is hosting the Believe Campaign, which provides donations to Make-A-Wish for every letter written to Santa.

"For every letter that is written to Santa, either online or brought into the Macy's store, we get a dollar, up to $1 million," Pearson said. "On Dec. 11, it's actually double day. All letters turned in are worth $2, and we're going to have two special Wish Kids bringing letters to Macy's that day."

Pearson said the local office's interaction with the community it serves is key to granting more wishes.

"Having someone on the ground here who can meet the donors, talk to the donors, promote the mission is definitely a benefit," Pearson said.

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Cory is a multimedia journalist and member of the Education Writers Association, Criminal Justice Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. He has appeared on Crime Watch Daily and Grave Mysteries on Investigation Discovery.

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