“There was a heart murmur, which is not atypical for babies,” recalls Carrie, “but this was different. We could tell something was wrong while we were in hospital. Everything felt chaotic and scary.” It didn’t take long for baby Casey to be diagnosed with a valvular heart problem. He was only two days old when he had his first treatment – a balloon.
Throughout his childhood, the family was always cautious with him, regularly visiting specialists and doctors to monitor his condition. Most recently, Casey underwent open heart surgery at Mayo last summer. It was just before that surgery that a friend who had a son with the same condition mentioned Make-A-Wish® Iowa to Carrie.
“I guess I didn’t realize that Casey didn’t have to be terminal to qualify for a wish,” said Carrie. “When I found out he may get one, I started talking to Casey about it and he got really excited. We went to their web site and started the process. The whole experience has been so easy.”
Make-A-Wish Iowa has granted more than 3,000 wishes to children in Iowa, and the biggest misconception the public has about them is that they only grant wishes to children who are terminal.
“Really, our only qualifications are that the child be older than two and a half and younger than eighteen at the time of the referral, they have not received a wish from another wish granting organization and that they have a life-threatening medical condition,” said Rachel Reams, Director of Operations for Make-A-Wish Iowa.
Once Casey’s eligibility was confirmed, a team of two local wish granters, Bethany Benner and Donna Bash, visited Casey’s house to start paperwork and figure out exactly what Casey wanted to do for his wish.
“I think one of the unique and amazing things about our organization is that we grant the one true wish of the child. As best we can, it’s truly only limited to the imagination of the wish child,” said Casey’s wish granter, Donna. “It’s not as though wishes are ‘cookie cutter’ experiences for these kids. Each one is unique.”
Casey had no trouble choosing what his wish would be. The teenager loved gaming and wished to have a shopping spree for his gaming room.
“Casey researched and researched for his wish. He read customer reviews on all of the equipment, customized everything and special ordered items on-line. He was so excited to be getting this wish, he wanted to make sure he really took his time and got exactly what he wanted,” said Carrie. “He even took time to research items to buy for his siblings. After everything he’s gone through and had to deal with, it was just a treat for all of us to see Casey have his wish granted.”
Many of the items arrived ahead of time, but part of the wish involved a shopping spree at GameStop in Waterloo. Nearly one wish a day takes place at a GameStop in the United States and this May they’ll be hosting a customer donation campaign for Make-A-Wish with a goal of raising $500,000.
“When Casey met us at GameStop, the huge smile on his face just melted my heart,” said wish granter Donna. “He was led around the store by his personal shopper, who was ironically also named Casey. This made him even more excited – to meet another guy with his name. The store even made him an official employee name tag. Casey and Casey had a blast choosing his favorite games together.”
Make-A-Wish Iowa has granted three wishes in the Cedar Valley area this year and nineteen more are in progress. The Cedar Valley committee is looking for new volunteers to help be wish granters in the community and meets on a monthly basis to talk about wishes in progress, upcoming fundraising events and promoting Make-A-Wish in the community.
This weekend, the group will host its first Walk for Wishes event, called “Running with the Stars”. Sponsored by Performance Bodies and Whiskey Road, the event begins with check-in/registration from 7:30 – 9:00 a.m., a pep rally with wish families and Zumba warm up at 9:00. Following the walk, they will have live music, awards, and treats. There is no registration fee, but individuals raising $30 or more receive a custom Walk for Wishes Dri-fit t-shirt.
To find out more about local volunteer opportunities, fundraising events or to learn more about how to receive a wish, visit iowa.wish.org or call (800) 797-9474 (WISH).