Pandemic has hit Make-A-Wish hard but it's adapted to continue helping sick children

·2 min read
Make-A-Wish Canada has had to adapt its wishes for the pandemic. (Submitted by Stuart Chase - image credit)
Make-A-Wish Canada has had to adapt its wishes for the pandemic. (Submitted by Stuart Chase - image credit)

The Make-A-Wish foundation has been making dreams come true for children who suffer from critical illnesses for decades. But with travel at a standstill and other normal activities deemed not possible because of COVID-19, the organization has had to adapt its program and the wishes its gives out.

Stuart Chase, the senior communications manager at Make-A-Wish Canada, says the last year has been hard on the organization and its charitable sector has taken a huge hit because of it.

"We were at a 30 per cent decline in our revenues in 2020. We have thousands of wishes that were either paused or on hold to be granted later," Chase said.

In a previous interview, Susan Phillips, a professor in the philanthropy and non-profit leadership program at Carleton University, told CBC about 86,000 charities in Canada, or 50 per cent, have suffered revenue losses during the pandemic. She says many may not survive.

"It has been absolutely dramatic, sudden, devastating," Phillips said.

Children have been resilient

Chase says that despite the challenging times, the children have been resilient.

"They understand that there's change in the world and that they need to roll with the punches," he said.

Chase says he has seen kids who asked for a trip or to meet their idols in person but have had to change their wishes since that's not possible right now.

Instead, he says, they might ask for something more within reach, like a mountain bike or an outdoor playground.

Chase talks about seven-year-old Bella, who lives with a gastrointestinal disorder and wished for an outdoor playground.

"It was all the magic you could hope for and wish. Her mom took a blindfold off and revealed her new play structure to her. She screamed. She jumped for joy. She ran toward it," Chase said.

Seven-year-old Bella is on the list for a bowel transplant. Her wish for a backyard playhouse came true in early May.
Seven-year-old Bella is on the list for a bowel transplant. Her wish for a backyard playhouse came true in early May.(Submitted by Stuart Chase)

He says the smile and joy the children have after their wish is granted makes it all worth it, especially during the pandemic.

"Kids that are battling critical illness. They're no strangers to isolation and uncertainty. And that's the world that all of us have been living in now. So, if anything, the rest of us have gotten a taste of what kids who battle illnesses go through on a daily basis."

Chase says Make-A-Wish launched a new fundraising event on Wednesday called Trailblaze for Wishes where participants run, walk or hike their chosen distance to raise funds for kids with critical illnesses.

He says the virtual events will be held throughout B.C. until July 28 and anyone can participate.

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