All children have dreams, and those of children with critical diseases deserve to be fulfilled no matter how farfetched the dreams may be. Make-A-Wish Israel understands how important it is to create joy in the lives of these children, and its volunteers know that granting their wishes should not be postponed until Covid-19 has been eradicated.
Although the coronavirus has made it much more difficult to fulfill wishes due to health concerns and a sharp drop in donations, some sick children have nevertheless had their wishes granted during Covid-19 and the NGO has organized a series of creative, innovative initiatives to help raise the required funds during these challenging times.
Wishes improve health
Make-A-Wish Israel was founded in 1996 by Denise and Avi Bar-Aharon in loving memory of Denise’s brother David Spero, who died of cancer. The Israeli NGO is part of an international non-profit organization that is active in 45 countries around the world. Its sole purpose is to fulfill the wishes of children between the ages of 3 and 18 who are battling major health problems and whose lives revolve around hospitals, unpleasant treatments and an uncertain future.
In 2015, a scientific study proved what Make-A-Wish already knew: that wishes actually improve a child’s overall health, both mentally and physically. The first study of its kind in the world, the research was conducted by Prof. Anat Shoshani under the direction of Dr. Tal Ben Shachar, from IDC Herzliya, and examined the effect of fulfilling a wish for a child with a critical illness.
The children served by Make-A-Wish Israel come from all over Israel and from all sectors of society, including Jews, Arabs and Christians. Their wishes fall into four general categories: to be, to go, to have and to meet. Examples of “to be” wishes include wanting to be a firefighter, a veterinarian, a CEO of a company or even a king or queen for a day. “To go” wishes have included travelling to places such as New York, Disneyland Paris, a soccer match in Barcelona or a musical in London. “To have” wishes could be anything from a new laptop to an electric guitar, while “to meet” usually involves meeting a celebrity in person, such as a favorite singer, television personality or sports star.
Approximately 600 children are diagnosed with critical illnesses in Israel every year and Make-A-Wish Israel is determined to reach each one. Since many of the wishes are expensive to fulfill – such as requests for computers or a special trip – the NGO is struggling to raise the necessary funds, especially during Covid-19. “We are celebrating our 25th year of granting transformational wishes in Israel in my beautiful brother David's memory,” says Make-A-Wish Israel co-founder and CEO Denise Bar-Aharon. “So far we have granted over 4,000 wishes and even though our cash flow came to a complete halt in March, we found new creative ways to fundraise and truly showed that we can make the impossible possible!”
One of Make-A-Wish Israel’s special initiatives during Covid-19 was the “Stars for Wishes” online auction held last June. The public was invited to bid for the opportunity to take part in activities with Israeli celebrities; the superstars donated their time, and the money that was raised helped pay for wishes that had been delayed due to Covid-19.
Dozens of A-list stars volunteered to take part in “Stars for Wishes” and in most cases the suggested opening bid was surpassed significantly. Among the many offers, people could bid to have beloved comedian Tzipi Shavit babysit their kids, or to be on the set as an extra of the Netflix sensation “Fauda” with actor Lior Raz, or to talk to the Hollywood actress Gal Gadot (“Wonder Woman”) for 15 minutes on Zoom, or to be invited behind the scenes of a popular TV show.
For the first time, Make-A-Wish Israel is collaborating with Disney Israel on another creative project. Together, they are launching a Mickey Mouse necklace campaign in order to make more children’s wishes come true. In the next few months, beautiful silver and gold necklaces which feature Mickey Mouse’s face will be sold in over 600 stores throughout Israel that belong to the Fox Group, including Fox Home, Laline, American Eagle, TerminalX and many other well-known retail chains. The Mickey Mouse necklace campaign was launched with the help of Make-A-Wish Israel’s Chairperson Dvir Benedek, who is a well-known Israeli actor, and Make-A-Wish Israel international ambassador Noa Kirel, one of the most popular singers in Israel.
This coming Valentine's Day, Genius 100 is planning a special once-in-a lifetime virtual event for Make-A-Wish Israel. The event will be hosted by master mentalist Lior Suchard together with Dvir Benedek. Suchard will perform acts with members of the Zoom audience as well as with international celebrities.
Making dreams come true
Every wish that Make-A-Wish Israel grants a sick child is special and the organization spares no effort in making sure that each child receives exactly what he or she dreamed about. More often than not, granting wishes involves a great deal of logistics, including coordinating with the child’s medical team and approaching famous people and other volunteers to donate their time. Covid-19 presented a whole new set of challenges, but Make-A-Wish continued to do everything possible to make children smile.
When Dvir Dahan, a teenager who became ill with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, recently told Make-A-Wish representatives that his dream is to meet American superstar Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock, Covid restrictions prevented an actual face-to-face meeting. However, Make-A-Wish arranged for The Rock to receive a letter and a portrait from Dvir, who is an avid artist, and then to tape an inspirational video message for Dvir. The Rock even sent gifts and surprises to Dvir and to his whole family.
Yocheved, a 12-year old girl from Ashdod who has leukemia, loves music and learned to play the harp at a conservatory. She dreamed of having her own harp at home, so that she could continue playing during the coronavirus. Make-A-Wish fulfilled Yocheved's wish. “I didn’t believe you would succeed in making my dream come true!” she said, elated with the gift.
Joseph is an 8-year old who is enduring a long period of hospitalization. His wish was to have a laptop with earphones for his hospital room, so that he could stay in contact with his family and friends. His wish was granted, much to Joseph’s delight.
Lavie, who is six and has cancer, also requested a laptop. Make-A-Wish not only gave him a computer, they arranged for it to be personally delivered to Lavie by Idan Vered, the captain of his favorite soccer team, Beitar Yerushalyim. The entire team hosted Lavie and his family at a training session, while maintaining social distancing restrictions.
Make-A-Wish Israel is rightfully proud of each one of the heartwarming wishes it has granted over the past 25 years, and Covid-19 is not going to stop them from continuing to make kids smile.
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