Wishes Can Happen celebrates 40 years of making childhood dreams come true and 1,500 wishes granted.
The Stark County organization celebrated its 40th anniversary with a reunion event Sept. 24 at the North Township Civic Center for past and future wish recipients and families.
“It couldn’t have been a nicer day, and what better way to celebrate this milestone in our history than to celebrate with those we’ve served?” said Erine Bodo, event chair and board member.
More than 500 guests attended, said Madelyn Sweeney, director of community relations for Wishes Can Happen.
Guests enjoyed many fun things, “including carnival games, traveling magicians, face artists, cartoonists, crazy science and the mobile zoo,” Sweeney said. Disney princesses and superheroes also made appearances, and guests enjoyed food from the food trucks.
A park bench honoring Wishes Can Happen founder Cyndi Morrow
North Township Mayor Stephan Wilder issued a proclamation honoring Wishes Can Happen. The board has donated funds to purchase a bench across the city of North Canton that will honor Wishes Can Happen founder Cyndi Morrow. It will be placed in the city’s new all-inclusive park, Dogwood Possibility Playground.
“I am extremely proud that the organization has been so successful and I never imagined that we would be celebrating our 40th anniversary. The reason for the success of this organization is the leadership of our Board of Directors and the hours of love and dedication of our volunteers,” said Morrow.
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How Wishes Can Happen started and how it works
Wishes Can Happen was founded in 1982 by Canton residents Cyndi Morrow and Linda Lippert. Morrow is executive director.
The nonprofit organization is made up of an all-volunteer board of directors and grants wishes to children and young adults, ages 3 to 21, with life-threatening illnesses living in Ohio.
The average cost of a wish is around $6,500. Wishes Can Happen relies on donations to fund wishes.
Referrals for wishes come from a variety of sources. Many come from families who have participated in the program over the years or at fundraising events for children that workers see in the newspapers or on social media. The majority of requests for wishes come from social workers at area hospitals.
Record wishes this year
The organization has granted 1,500 wishes since its inception 40 years ago. Sweeney said this year has been a banner year.
“We’re on schedule to make at least 50 wishes come true this year, with around 25 more in the pipeline that could happen this year or next,” Sweeney said.
Sweeney said a big reason for more wishes is the exposure the organization gets from the Wish-A-Thon hosted by Mix 94.1 and 1480 WHBC, which hosted the event for the 15th year this year.
“It’s been incredibly helpful for people to know about Wishes Can Happen, for sure,” Sweeney said. “We really need the help of Wish-A-Thon. It really meant the world to us this year.
Previous recipients of Wishes Can Happen
The most popular wishes the organization receives are from children hoping for Disney trips. But visits to dude ranches and wishes to play golf in Hawaii, as well as shopping trips to New York were granted.
The most recent wishes were to go to an MLB baseball game, revamp the terrace space and host a gala.
“We sent a 16-year-old boy, Sam, to see his favorite baseball team, the (San Diego) Padres,” Sweeney said. “The Padres gave him the royal treatment with signed memorabilia and meetings with many players, as well as watching the game from the owners’ box. So that was cool.
Another recent wish was for a 21-year-old girl, Molly, who wanted an “epic gratitude gala.”
“Where most kids ask to have a wish really for themselves, she asked to have a wish to honor other people who have advanced cancer research and helped her. It was a pretty neat wish,” Sweeney said.
Another wish granted was for 5-year-old Kyler, who wanted to go to a Power Rangers convention in California. He must be the guest of honor.
And for Maria, who loves to read and hang out with friends, Wishes Can Happen has created a dreamy space in front of her home with a patio and built-in fire pit for her to spend time outdoors.
If you would like to donate to Wishes Can Happen or sponsor a child, go to wishesscanhappen.org.