Make-A-Wish Wyoming grants wishes for ill childrenWritten by Saige Albert
“We grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy,” says Make-A-Wish Wyoming CEO Morgan Legerski.
Each year, the organization works to grant the wishes of as many children as possible, striving to provide a little bit of light to families experiencing the life-threatening illnesses.
“Any child between the ages of two-and-a-half who hasn’t yet turned 18 with a life-threatening medical condition is potentially eligible,” Legerski says. “Life-threatening is defined as progressive, degenerative or malignant.”
Each year, the organization grants approximately 35 wishes of Wyoming children. To date, Make-A-Wish Wyoming has granted 524 wishes, and each day, they are working to bring more to life.
“A lot of people think that we grant wishes, but it’s really our donors who grant wishes,” Legerski comments. “We just help to make it all possible.”
Make-A-Wish Wyoming operates with a five-member staff and 12-member board to help children see their wishes come true.
“Donors are the most important piece of what we do,” says Legerski. “We don’t get government funding. All of our wishes are granted through funds raised in Wyoming.”
She adds that any money raised in Wyoming goes to grant wishes in Wyoming for Wyoming children.
Both in-kind and monetary donations are accepted.
“It really depends on the wish as to what in-kind gifts can be donated,” Legerski continues.
She adds, “One thing that people can always donate to us is their airline miles, which is neat. Also, once the airline miles are donated to us, they never expire. If someone has airline miles expiring next month and they won’t be able to use them, we can use them because donated miles don’t expire.”
Make-A-Wish Wyoming could use over 6 million airline miles every year, just to grant wishes for Wyoming children. Currently, they receive about 150,000 miles a year.
“There are so many ways to help grant wishes,” Legerski says. “All the little things add up.”
Each wish costs an average of $8,000.
While donations are vital, Legerski also adds that volunteers, especially in Wyoming, are very important.
“Since Wyoming is so spread out, if we didn’t have volunteers, we’d spend all of our time on the road meeting families,” Legerski explains. “We have about 65 volunteers right now.”
Make-A-Wish staff work each year on fundraising programs, most notably the Stories of Light Gala.
“This year’s Gala is Nov. 12 in Casper, and it’s a great way for us to bring in supporters from the community and across the state to share their stories,” Legerski comments. “Hearing about Make-A-Wish from a wish family is so much more powerful than anything I could tell you.”
While their annual event is instrumental in helping to raise funds for their yearly activities, Legerski also notes that they rely on other external fundraisers throughout the year, as well.
“Several groups around the state also do fundraisers for us,” she says. “Groups have golf tournaments, and high school students are very involved in doing fundraisers throughout the state.”
She adds, “We also have a number of people who are just generous and make donations, which is wonderful.”
Make-A-Wish Wyoming also hosts an annual 5K bike-a-thon, called Tour de Wish, in honor of the first wish granted in the state, which was a bike to a boy named Brian.
Each year, World Wish Day celebrates the granting of the very first wish in Arizona.
“On April 29, 1980 eight-year-old Chris became an Arizona police officer,” Legerski says. “We celebrate that now, and all 62 chapters and 38 international affiliates celebrate World Wish Day, each in our own way.”
Because the first wish was to be a police officer, Make-A-Wish Wyoming partners with police stations across the state to honor Make-A-Wish.
“Six communities around the state participated this year, and we had officers put Make-A-Wish stickers in their cars,” she says. “We also had a few ice cream socials. It’s fun to involve them.”
To date, the national office estimates that Wyoming only reaches about half of the eligible children in the state.
“I have a hard time knowing that each day that we leave, we’re only reaching about half of the eligible children in the state,” Legerski says. “Even having 28 children waiting for their wish right now is only half.”
Estimates show about 50 children in Wyoming are eligible each year for a wish.
“I know we can get better than 50 percent,” she adds. “Our goal is to reach 100 percent of children. We want to reach every eligible child, or at least make sure their families know that Make-A-Wish is an option.”
Legerski adds that misconceptions about Make-A-Wish are present, including the idea that children have to be terminally ill to qualify.
“Make-A-Wish is not only for children with terminal conditions,” she says. “Also, a lot of people don’t realize what a wish can do.”
While some families may say that they can take the family to Disney World on their own, Legerski says that Make-A-Wish adds more.
“For example, even if it’s just a trip to Disney World, kids from Make-A-Wish get to stay in a place called Give Kids the World Village, where only wish kids stay,” she says. “It’s a really incredible experience.”
Additionally, she says that there is a misconception that if a child is granted a wish, it takes a wish away from someone else.
“That’s not true,” she explains. “We’re not limited to a certain number of wishes. We can grant as many wishes as come in to our office. Our vision is to grant the wish of every eligible child in the state.”
“Anyone who knows a child who might be eligible should give us a call,” Legerski comments. “I can promise that no one else can do things the way that Make-A-Wish can.”
This is the first article in a three-part series on Make-A-Wish Wyoming. Look for the next installments, coming Nov. 5 and Dec. 3, to learn more about volunteering and Wyoming’s Make-A-Wish families.