Make-A-Wish Utah will host an Evening of Wishes next month | ParkRecord.com

Make-A-Wish Utah will host an Evening of Wishes next month

Parkite named as Wish Ambassador

Every 38 minutes a child living in the United States and its territories diagnosed with a life-threatening progressive, degenerative or malignant condition is granted a wish by the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Wishes are granted by Make-A-Wish Utah every other day for children who live in the Beehive State, said Pam Eichner, who was named Make-a-Wish Foundation's wish ambassador for Utah in December.

"There are different types of wishes that we grant," said Eichner, who is also a Park City-based film actress. "Children can wish to go places or to be or meet someone or have something."

Some wishes are as simple as wanting a saxophone. Other wishes are more extravagant; one little girl who wanted a masquerade ball.

A wish was granted to a Park City boy who wished to go on a shopping spree for computer games last December, and the organization is in the process of granting another wish for a Summit County boy who wants to visit all of the theme parks in Orlando, Florida, according to Kelsey DiTommaso, marketing director for Make-A-Wish Utah.

"Obviously trips to Disney World and Harry Potter theme parks are popular," Eichner said. "One child in Utah asked for a library-themed bedroom."

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An average wish costs $5,000, so Make-A-Wish Utah is hosting an Evening Of Wishes Gala from 5:30-11 p.m. on Saturday, March 25, at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City.

The event will feature a cocktail reception, silent and live auctions, dinner, dancing and entertainment.

"The purpose of the Evening of Wishes is to fund the wishes of the 150 children in Utah – who are waiting for their wishes to be granted," Eichner said. "Our goal for 2017 is to grant 190 wishes."

Single tickets are $250 and a table of 10 is $2,500.

"A table will fund half a wish," Eichner said.

Eichner also said there are different ways people can donate if they can't make it to the gala.

"They can donate through the website (www.utah.wish.org)," she said. "Some people donate one lump sum at once and others pay as little as $5 a month. "When you think about it, the $5 you drop at Starbucks can be used to change a child's and their family's life.

"Sometimes people donate their sky miles," Eichner said. "There are so many ways to help."

While the common concept of Make-a-Wish is to help the child, some of the children who request wishes have their own ideas of how things work.

"I met one girl [named McKendrick] the other day who has an extremely rare auto-immune disorder that affects one in one million people," Eichner said. "It started with a sinus infection and then the next thing they knew she was seriously ill."

The child, whose name is confidential, has three other siblings.

"She wanted to go to Disney World, and when her wish was granted, she said that this whole experience had been so hard for her family that she felt it would be so nice if they could all go and forget about the illness," Eichner said. "What an awesome and magical person. She wasn't thinking about herself as much as she was thinking about her family."

Getting away from the hospital, tests and checkups are the common thread for these wishes.

"Everyone whose wishes were granted always talk about how wonderful it was to have their focus directed toward the promise of something special," Eichner said. "That, in itself, is a wonderful thing, but the hope that it gives kids to hang on so they can push forward and feel better helps these kids."

Hope does wonders.

"I found that 70 percent of the kids who have their wishes granted recover from their ailments and go on to lead full lives," Eichner said. "Also, 89 percent of healthcare providers surveyed say they believe the wish experience influenced the physical health of the wish child. Seventy-four percent of parents observed that the wish marked a turning point in their child's response to treatment.

"I always thought Make-A-Wish was an organization that granted wishes to children who had no chance of recovery, which is reason enough to support it," she said. "But when you hear how many kids recover [from their illnesses], you realize you can actually have a hand in helping make them better."

Granting wishes is a wonderful process, Eichner said.

"A medical professional will refer families to Make-A-Wish and the child will write down a wish," she said. "The child will then enter the Wish Tower and place the wish inside of the Magic Wishing Hat and then wait for a few days. If enough people donate, the wish is granted."

Eichner was introduced to Make-A-Wish 20 years ago while living in South Africa.

"I did some fundraising for them," she said. "When I moved to the states, I still donated money."

This past year, Eichner wanted to do something more.

"I called them and asked if there was anything else I could do, and they said they just had a meeting about getting someone to wave the flag for them," she said. "That's just the universe intervening. I've enjoyed working with them. It's been nothing short of magic."

Make-A-Wish Utah will host its Evening Of Wishes Gala fundraiser from 5:30-11 p.m. on Saturday, March 25, at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City. Single tickets are $250 and a table of 10 is $2,500. For information, visit http://www.utah.wish.org.