A pint-sized 4-year-old with a deep love of baseball, Riley had been through more medically than most will experience in a lifetime. Hours after birth, doctors recognized his heart had only one chamber instead of four; all his organs were on the opposite side of his body; and he’s missing his spleen. Eventually Riley will need a heart transplant.
But he wasn’t concerned with any of that. Instead, he wanted to talk baseball – players, stats, parks. Baseball was a big part of his treatment. He would look at pictures of parks, past and present, while in the hospital. It became a family activity. That inspired Riley to wish to watch the Baltimore Orioles play. Riley wasn’t my wish kid, he was the source of a local story I was writing for the newspaper for which I work.
Unsure of what I’d find, Riley and his family were friendly and welcoming. His parents talked with ease about their son’s diagnoses—something they had surely practiced. What really struck me was how happy Riley was. Most of his life has been spent with people doing medical tests, none of which were comfortable for a child. Yet Riley was very happy and optimistic, as were his family and the volunteers who sat on the couch during my interview – the wish delivery day.
I didn’t know what I was getting myself into but this kind of happiness was something I needed in my life. It was a sign. Training to be a wish granter started shortly after. Since then, I’ve welcomed any opportunity to support Make-A-Wish. I’ve met kids who have dreams to meet Mickey Mouse or swim with dolphins. It’s been my honor to stand in the background while escorting a Southern California boy who got to meet his favorite San Francisco Giants pitcher. There was a day spent transforming a little girl’s bedroom and another that included spending more money on a shopping spree than I did on my wedding gown. Sometimes there are talks at companies conducting a donation drive or monthly meetings to support fundraising efforts.
What keeps me involved is the people.
Make-A-Wish has selfishly helped me with, everything. Amazing people are brought together through Make-A-Wish—from staff and volunteers to families and those recommending the children. Everyone is working together to make a little one smile. It’s a supportive family of individuals who recognize some things are bigger than small day-to-day annoyances. That kind of effort is a constant reminder of how lucky I am now to be the person who meets the Rileys in my neighborhood.
Heather's Original Article
Heather Murtagh: Heather grew up asking questions others would have thought rude but to which she really wanted to know the answer. As a result, Heather studied journalism at San Francisco State and joined a small, local daily on the San Francisco Peninsula, the San Mateo Daily Journal.
After over seven years with the Daily Journal, Heather has become an award-winning journalist with experience covering education, politics, business and technology. She further challenges her writing skills through blogging – both personally and professionally – and through freelance marketing work. When not in the newsroom, Heather is an active volunteer through local mentoring groups and with Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area.