The Make-A-Wish Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in the United States that arranges experiences described as "wishes" to children with life-threatening medical conditions. In order to qualify for a wish, the child must be between the ages of 3 and 17 years at the time of referral. It is the child's physician that ultimately decides if a child is eligible.
The national headquarters and founding chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation are in Phoenix. The organization grants wishes through its 62 chapters located throughout the United States. Make-A-Wish also operates in 45 other countries around the world through 38 affiliate offices.
In the spring of 1980, 7-year-old Christopher James Greicius (August 13, 1972 – May 3, 1980) was being treated for leukemia. He aspired to be a police officer. U.S. Customs Officer Tommy Austin befriended Chris and worked with officers at the Arizona Department of Public Safety to plan an experience to lift Greicius' spirits. Chris spent the day as a police officer, rode in a police helicopter, received a custom-tailored police uniform, and was sworn in as the first honorary Public Safety patrolman in state history. Greicius died soon after, but his wish became inspiration for the Make-A-Wish organization.
Professional wrestler John Cena holds the title for the most wishes granted by a single individual, with over 500 wishes. Singer Justin Bieber has volunteered in over 250 wishes. National women's collegiate sorority Chi Omega has raised over $14 million for Make-A-Wish since 2001.
Children who may be eligible to receive a wish can be referred by one of the following three sources:
To refer a child, the appropriate referral source can use Make-A-Wish’s online inquiry form or contact the Make-A-Wish chapter closest to them. All medical information is considered confidential and is not discussed with outside parties unless it is required for the wish and the child’s parent(s) or guardian(s) have given their consent.
A child with a life-threatening medical condition who has reached the age of 3 and is under the age of 17 at the time of referral, is potentially eligible for a wish. After a child is referred, the child’s treating physician must determine whether the child is medically eligible for a wish, based on the medical criteria established by Make-A-Wish. In addition, a child cannot have received a wish from another wish-granting organization.
Each Make-A-Wish chapter follows specific policies and guidelines for granting a child’s wish. Make-A-Wish works closely with the wish child’s physician and family to determine the most appropriate time to grant the wish, keeping in mind the child’s treatment protocol or other concerns. Most wish requests fall into five categories: I wish to go, I wish to be, I wish to meet, I wish to have, or I wish to give.
The national board of directors helps chart Make-A-Wish’s course. The board has a vast array of experience and skills that help maintain Make-A-Wish’s status as the largest wish-granting organization in the U.S. The board determines the mission and vision, evaluates and supports the president and chief executive officer, and protects Make-A-Wish’s assets. The board enhances Make-A-Wish’s public standing, ensures accountability, maintains legal integrity, and assesses its own performance.
The senior leadership team is composed of Make-A-Wish’s top-level management. Each member is a national office leader in disciplines that include wish-granting, fundraising, legal, brand advancement, and operational activities. The president and CEO guides the strategic plan in areas such as board development, talent development, fundraising, and corporate relations.
Make-A-Wish stopped granting wishes involving hunting-related activities, including fishing, use of firearms or other weapons that are designed to cause animal injury in 1996. This was largely due to concerns over child safety, the pressure from animal-sensitive donors, and criticisms from animal rights groups. In response, three organizations were formed: Hunt of a Lifetime, which arranges hunting trips for terminally ill children; Catch-a-Dream, which was conceived by Mississippi outdoorsman Bruce Brady and formed by his loved ones following Brady's death from cancer to grant hunting experiences to ill children; and Life Hunts, founded by the Buckmasters American Deer Foundation.
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