Receiving a check for $100,000 is something to smile about, especially during a tough economic time in which people are cutting back on donations.
Those at A Wish Come True, Inc. are certainly jolly this holiday season, as Wal-Mart selected the non-profit organization established in 1982 that grants “wishes” to children between the ages of three and 18 with life-threatening illnesses to be the recipient of the Wal-Mart Associate Choice for Rhode Island and presented the check to them on Tuesday morning.
Rosemary Bowers, the founder and executive director of A Wish Come True, said one wish typically costs between $6,500 and $7,000 or more depending on the request, size of the family and if any special medical needs are required.
A portion of the money has already been spent to grant 10 wishes, including seven vacations to Disney World; two cruises, as well as one trip to the San Diego Zoo. Aside from vacations and Disney getaways, which make up 85 per cent of wishes, the organization funds whatever the children want such as shopping sprees; computers; bedroom makeovers; even a Lady Gaga concert in Houston, Texas last year.
“She showed the child all around and took her to her dressing room and spent quality time with her,” said Bowers. “She gave her a back stage pass for life so anywhere she is performing she will get in to see her. Lady Gaga was in Boston this summer and the child immediately got in to see her.”
The children, along with their loved ones, will get the opportunity to escape their day-to-day struggles. Twenty-nine are awaiting wishes. In fact, the organization received five new referrals in the last two weeks.
“I wish we were out of business,” Bowers said. “What company would love to be out of business? But it’s wonderful to know we have support.”
More than 2,800 Wal-Mart staff members from all nine statewide locations voted for A Wish Come True through Wal-Mart’s Infranet. They selected the top five Rhode Island organizations they feel are most deserving of donations during a 12-week period, which began in the summer.
Each receives $10,000, with $100,000 going to the chosen charity.
The non-profits applied through the Wal-Mart Foundation. While the donation is only awarded to an organization once, the winners are able to participate in other Wal-Mart charities, including the Store Giving Campaign, for which every Rhode Island location contributes $8,000, as well as the State Giving Campaign, which offers nearly $400,000 to the community.
“It all goes back Rhode Island each year and we’ve been able to give to so many different organizations,” said Market Assistant Alexis Tulli. “We enjoy doing it and we’re lucky that we are still able to give back because a lot of corporations are not able to.”
Bowers agreed, as she said this year’s donations are down a third in contrast to past years. Standard corporate donations usually are $10,000. Lately, they have been $6,000 or less. “People just don’t have the money to give because they are out of work,” Bowers said. “They may have given $50 last year and now they are giving $20. But they keep giving and we’re thankful for their generosity.”
Further, Bowers said the non-profit advises families not to travel if the children are undergoing treatment. If a trip is already planned and they have a relapse when they are set to leave, the organization accommodates the families.
“They can call us, we pick up the tickets and reschedule when the child is healthy,” she said. “Twice we’ve had families end up in hospitals in Florida. One child spent two weeks in an out-of-state hospital before she was well enough to head home. But that didn’t mean she missed out on her trip because we sent her back when she was well enough.”
Jackson Herring, Market Manager of Wal-Mart said he thinks it’s “fantastic” the company is able to reach out to the community. But Bowers said it’s even more than that.
“It’s not fantastic-it’s ‘A Wish Come True,’” she said.
For more information, to refer a child or make a donation, contact A Wish Come True, Inc., which is located at 1010 Warwick Avenue, by calling 401-781-9199 or by e-mailing Bowers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the website at www.awish.org.
To find out more about the Wal-Mart Foundation visit walmartfoundation.org.