The bus left early – 7 a.m. Sunday morning – but that didn’t stop the State Street School team from Westerly from participating in the third annul Walk for Wishes event at the Warwick Mall.
In all, 35 teams and an estimated 300 people spent Sunday morning walking the mall, plus watching group performances for the benefit of Make-A-Wish Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
The participants not only included those anxious to help the cause, but also, as it turned out, several who have benefited from wishes and even those soon to have their wish granted.
“It was a sanctuary for myself,” recalls Tessa Tomassini of Cumberland.
Now an accountant, it was nearly 20 years ago when Tessa underwent a liver transplant at the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. Her wish two years after her surgery was a remake of her room. Now she and her family look to bring similar joy and peace to children with life-threatening medical conditions.
Her father Richard and sister Briana, along with her friend Jen Ward, were all present for the walk. Tessa and Maggie Chaquette sold raffle tickets, further boosting proceeds for the day.
The mall walk typically generates $23,000, according to Make-A-Wish spokeswoman Jordan Salvatoriello. On average, granting a wish costs $7,500. Wishes are granted to children between the ages of 2½ and 18 years old.
She said 80 percent of wishes are for travel, with the greatest share of those being for a trip to Disney World. Of the non-travel wishes, room makeovers are especially popular.
“We grant wishes to empower the human experience with hope, strength and joy,” Salvatoriello said, quoting the Make-A-Wish mission.
While they have yet to receive their wish, 5-year-old twins Brennan and Brody Smith are feeling the excitement. Sitting in strollers with feeding tubes affixed to their cheeks, they watched a performance of Mastery Martial Arts at the center of the mall. Brody was into the action, arms swinging and legs pumping.
“It’s really something positive to look forward to,” said their mother, Allison. On April 2, the entire family – including their father Jason recovering from a broken ankle, and older brother, Landon – will be traveling to Disney World.
“We’re going to do something fun, where they can be little boys,” said Allison. “There won’t be any doctors or therapists.”
Born prematurely, the twins are being treated for a form of epilepsy and are scheduled to undergo a procedure next Thursday. The upcoming trip is fresh in the family’s minds.
Aimee Tortolano, whose daughter Christina had to have her left kidney removed because of cancer three years ago at the age of 6, can attest to the lasting impact of a wish. Christina’s wish was to meet Taylor Swift.
“We met Taylor Swift backstage. We saw her dresses, we talked with her,” Tortolano said excitedly, recalling the details and showing a picture of Swift that she keeps on her cell phone. Christina was at the walk, joining with Olympic gold medal-winning hockey player Sara DeCosta for pictures. Christina plays a forward position on one of the teams DeCosta coaches.
Tortolano has chaired the Warwick Mall walk since it was started by Make-A-Wish Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
“We do everything we can for this organization,” she said