To those outside the Make-A-Wish community, a wish may seem like a nice, fun experience. It’s true – wishes are amazing and fun. But anyone who’s experienced a wish first-hand, whether as a donor, volunteer, or wish family, knows that a wish-come-true means much, much more.
Simply put, wishes transform lives. Just ask wish sibling Shayna Grassi, whose brother’s wish, granted more than twenty years ago, remains a defining event that ended up shaping her career.
“We talk about how wishes give kids memories that last a lifetime, but I know they last even longer,” says Shayna, whose twin brother Sam’s wish to go to Disney World was granted by Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area in 1996, when the siblings were eight.
“Sam had Duchenne muscular dystrophy and was at that heartbreaking stage where he was starting to lose his gross motor function,” Shayna recalls. “He could still walk, but the reality of his pending transition to a wheelchair was looming on the not-so-distant horizon.”
Twenty-two years later, the memories from Sam’s wish stay with Shayna, and even inspired her non-profit career – she’s now a Marketing and Communications Manager at Make-A-Wish’s Connecticut chapter.
Shayna remembers meeting Mickey and Minnie and eating ice cream at all hours of the day at the Give Kids the World Village. She says the most memorable part of the trip was seeing the smiles it brought to Sam’s face during an incredibly difficult time. Sam’s joy is immortalized in photos from the trip: “That smile that my brother has is one of the best smiles of any photo that we have of our family.”
The wish created lasting memories for Sam as well. “Our wish trip to Disney World remained my brother’s favorite family memory until he passed away in 2008,” says Shayna.
To this day, reminiscing about the trip and the joy that Sam experienced in Disney World is a source of strength for Shayna her parents. She shares: “My brother left us almost 10 years ago, but his memories of that trip live on with me and my family. On those days when we miss him the most, the birthdays that go uncelebrated, the wedding day where he wasn’t sitting next to my parents -- on those days I can picture his smile as we posed next to E.T. and hear his laughter when he tugged on Fievel’s tail in the Give Kids the World cafeteria, and the loss feels a little less raw.”
The happiness that Sam experienced during his wish was anything but fleeting. As he endured the physical and emotional strain of a degenerative condition, Sam drew strength from memories of his wish experience. “Sam may have lost his battle with muscular dystrophy, but with help from Make-A-Wish, he won the daily war against depression.”
Just like each of the 400+ wishes we grant each year, Sam’s wish was only possible because of donors and volunteers like you. As Shayna says, “I hope my story helps to remind [you] that the work we do matters, and the people whose lives you touched are eternally grateful for the memories you’ve given us.”
Currently, only half of the children in our community who are diagnosed with a critical illness get to experience a wish. We need your help to reach our goal of granting a wish for every eligible child, and when you give today, your contribution will have double the impact.
To help us make every wish come true, the Monterey Peninsula Foundation has offered a matching challenge. Every gift we receive this summer will be matched dollar-for-dollar, up to $60,000.