Resources and information for parents of children with cancer . . . by parents of children with cancer.

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About Make-A-Wish and List of Wish Organizations

One wonderful experience which most cancer children and families have is a "Wish" granted by a wish-granting organization. The wish is just about anything the child desires: a trip for the family to Disney World, a trip to Hawaii, meeting their favorite celebrity, a new computer system, a re-do of their bedroom - all of these are only examples of granted wishes. The granting of the wish gives the child and the family a well-needed break from all that they are going through.

Who decides the Wish?

The child. And only the child! The grantors will discuss the wish in a careful interview with the child to make sure that it is their idea and not their parents' idea.

Who is eligible for a Wish?

Eligibility varies slightly from organization to organization, and each chapter of the larger organizations sets its own rules as to age, "seriousness of the disease", and what type of wishes will be granted. Commonly, children aged 3 through 18 are granted wishes.

The "seriousness of the disease" issue is not quite as clear. Most organizations and chapters of organizations require a doctor's statement that the disease is "life threatening". The doctor is the only person who can make this determination. Some organizations require a doctor's statement of "terminal" rather than just "life threatening", although this is the exception rather than the rule. If your local organization falls in this latter class, search around for another one.

Some parents of children with ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukemia) have been told by their local wish organization that their child will not be granted a wish because the disease is not "serious" enough. If this happens to your family, first find out whether the organization requires "life-threatening" or "terminal", then find out what the doctor wrote on the application. Then, follow through: your child deserves a Wish!

Who initiates the Wish process?

A parent or guardian must initiate the process by contacting the wish granting organization (this is true for Make A Wish; the others probably have a similar rule). Your hospital social worker, child life specialist, or Candlelighters parents consultant will probably approach you and tell you which wish-granting organization does the wishes in your area, and give you the information on how to contact them. If they do not approach you with the information or give it to you if asked, either because they are too busy (!!) or because they have made their own judgment as to whether or not your child is "worthy", you are quite free to contact the wish organization yourself. Wish organizations do not accept a contact from friends or from other family members.

What next?

Paperwork is filled out by the organization and sent to the child's physician for certification. It is not the business of the wish-organization to diagnose illnesses, and the system of getting a doctor's certification works very well. In the words of Anne S., who is a cancer parent now volunteering for Make A Wish as a wish-grantor: "If people in your area find that any particular diagnosis is being excluded it is because the doctors have decided not to sign off for it. In my personal opinion, a ped-onc who would argue that any form of leukemia is not life-threatening has either discovered a miracle cure he's not sharing with the rest of us, or should turn in his Montgomery Ward medical diploma and go drive a truck."

And then?

Your family will be visited by a wish-grantor (more paperwork!) and details of the wish and special medical needs which need to be met during the wish will be discussed. Then they do all the work, and your child (and you) just sits back and enjoys!

Wish Granting Organizations

Special: Donate your vehicle to Wheels for Wishes. This is a way to get rid of old vehicles and have the proceeds donated to Make-A-Wish! Details at the Wheels for Wishes site.

Make A Wish Foundation of America

Grants wishes to children between 2 1/2 and 18 with a critical illness. The main web site will direct you to the contact (and/or web site) of the chapter nearest you.

Second Wish

"When a child has to face cancer a second time, we believe they should have a special opportunity to look forward to." Second Wish a wish granting organization for children ages 2-18 who have experienced a relapse or reoccurance of cancer and are being treated at Mary Bridge Children's Hospital in Tacoma, Washington. As of 2018, the service area is the following counties: Kitsap, Mason, Pierce or by Board approval.

Marty Lyons Foundation

Wishes to children ages 3 to 17 who are terminally ill or have a life-threatening disease. The Foundation has 10 Chapters granting wishes in 12 states – Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

Children's Wish Foundation International

"Our Wish Fulfillment program is open to any young person under the age of 18 and who has been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. Anyone can refer a child – simply contact our office with basic information on the child, and we will immediately begin working on initial steps to fulfill the Wish."

Sunshine Foundation

Sunshine Foundation may fulfill the dreams of children between the ages of 3 and 18 who are severely affected by a chronic illness or physical disability. Anyone can refer a child. Must be a US citizen.

A Wish with Wings, Inc.

Grants the wishes of Texas children with life-threatening diseases between the ages of 3–18.

Wishing Star Foundation

Grants wishes to children 3 to 21 with life-threatening or life-shortening conditions. Permanent residence must be in Spokane, the Tri-Cities or a local outlying area.

A Special Wish Foundation

Grants wishes to children under the age of 21 and diagnosed as having a life-threatening disorder. To find the chapter nearest you, visit the chapters page.

Indiana Children's Wish Fund

Grants wishes to Indiana children, ages 3-18, who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening or terminal illness.

Give Kids The World

Give Kids The World Village partners with over 220 wish-granting organizations (WGO) and foundations to make the Central Florida wish a reality. Families that visit Give Kids The World must be referred by one of these wish-granting organizations or foundations. Children ages 3-18, battling a life-threatening illness as deemed by a medical doctor are eligible, regardless of income.

For a list of wish-granting organizations and foundations that work with GDTW, visit their wish-granting organizations page.

Kids Wish Network

Kids Wish Network grants wishes to children between the ages of 3 & 18 who are battling a life threatening illness. Must live in Central Florida.

New Hope for Kids Wish Program

Grants wishes to children through the age of 19 diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.


Grants outdoor wishes of children with life threatening and life limiting illnesses.

Magic Moments

Grants wished to children in Alabama with chronically life threatening medical conditions.

The Rainbow Connection

Wishes for any child between the ages of 2.5 and 18 years of age who resides in Michigan and is dealing with a life threatening medical condition.

Horses for Hope

Horses For Hope is a program in Michigan that offers children with cancer (and their families) events to help them take their minds off their illness and the side effects related to cancer treatment.

General Disclaimer

These pages are intended for informational purposes only and are not intended to render medical advice. The information provided on Ped Onc Resource Center should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you suspect your child has a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

© copyright 1998-2018 by Patty Feist

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