Make-A-Wish brings hope to I.E.

Written by Diego D Garcia

Shedding light on Fairmount Park on an otherwise gloomy morning, the sixth-annual Walk for Wishes event looked forward to fulfilling the dreams of children battling life threatening illnesses in the surrounding communities of Riverside County April 9.

As the event commenced, the clouds opened up and rays of light filled Riverside’s Walk for Wishes celebration.

“God has shed a light on us today,” one attendee shouted.

With over 300 walkers, the Orange County/Inland Empire Make-A-Wish chapter was able to raise about $35,000 according to Sarah Pizzaruso, vice president of development and marketing for the OC/IE Make-A-Wish chapter.

Stephanie McCormick, president and CEO of the OC/IE Make-A-Wish chapter, said last year the OC/IE chapter granted 335 wishes and hopes to grant 347 wishes this year.

This chapter grants four types of wishes which are: I wish to have, I wish to be, I wish to go and I wish to meet.

Various organizations and companies like Home Depot, Manheim and Disneyland Inland Empire attended the event and participated in the walk.

As the opening ceremony drew to a close, a thundering clap cheered on the participants as they began their half-mile walk along Fairmount Park.

Attendees described how they felt and what this event meant for them.

“It’s really a good cause, they give the money to the kids that are going through chemotherapy and different illnesses. I’m gonna cry,” Barbara Lares said with tears in her eyes.

“This helps the kids… They aren’t always terminal they just need to get by, this (walk) gives them hope to get through it,” Lares said. “So at the end of it all they have something to look forward to like a bike, a trip to Hawaii, whatever it is.”

Lauren Butler, 16, from Corona is one of those children that Make-A-Wish helped achieve her dream of “I wish to go.”

Butler gave an enthusiastic and elated account of her wish come true.

“It wasn’t just me who went through my treatment, it was my whole family,” Butler said. “That’s why I decided to go to Maui. Maui was the most incredible trip of my life!”

While in Maui, Butler and her family ziplined.

“The incredible part of ziplining, (was) watching my mom almost pee her pants every time,” Butler jokingly said.

The crowd roared with laughter as Lauren described her mother’s experience while ziplining.

Some members of the OC/IE’s Make-A-Wish staff agree that working for Make-A-Wish is inspiring and the best job in the world.

“It’s amazing, it’s very… inspiring” Pizzaruso said. “A lot of people, when they hear that I work at Make-A-Wish say ‘that must be hard to hear the stories.’ I say ‘absolutely not,’ every kid has the most inspirational story, that just makes you think (about) everything that they’ve gone through.”

“The way they are able to turn it around into something so incredibly positive…that we get to help make that happen is inspiring,” Pizzaruso said.

Kara Bautch, senior marketing and communications manager for the OC/IE Make-A-Wish chapter, added her perspective on being part of this foundation.

“It is one of the most incredible things I think I will ever do in my life. Being able to get up every day knowing you’re able to help people when they need it most… is impactful,” Bautch said.

Bautch gave thanks toward the surrounding communities who participated in the event.

“We are grateful for the communities support out here in the Inland Empire. We are in definite need of Spanish speaking volunteers and more wishes fulfilled,” Bautch said.

“If a child is going through a life threatening medical condition, please refer them to us.”

One of the biggest misconceptions Make-A-Wish encounters is that they only grant wishes for terminally ill children, Bautch reported.

More than 70 percent of the wish children may live long and healthy lives, according to Bautch.

One of those children who was helped by Make-A-Wish is Selah Short. She is now on the OC/IE Make-A-Wish staff and is giving back to a new generation of wish kids.

The OC/IE Make-A-Wish chapter was the seventh chapter founded by the Make-A-Wish foundation over 35 years ago.

Stephanie McCormick gave a special thanks to the city of Riverside and was ecstatic while expressing her feelings about her position in the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“I am blessed. I have the best job ever, to be able to work with all these incredible children and their families, to make their wish come true. I’ve been in this work over 40 years and I could tell you this is truly the best job I’ve ever had in my life!” McCormick passionately exclaimed.   

The OC/IE Make-A-Wish chapter has moved into a new office located at 1650 Spruce St. in Riverside California.