By Jeneal Wood
Three-year-old Davie-Anna Carmona wished to go to Disneyland. So when Make-A-Wish Foundation came to take her in early December, she was "terribly excited to go," grandmother Maria Carmona said.
"They had an entire agenda set up for us and even had given options of princesses to dress up as," she said.
Davie-Anna's wish was one of more than 1,400 wishes granted by Make-A-Wish of Central California, serving Kern County, among other counties, since 1986.
The foundation took Carmona and her grandparents, Maria and Martin, to Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm, where they spent four nights at Disneyland Resort. For Davie-Anna, who is recovering from leukemia, the wish meant a lot.
Make-A-Wish Foundation is a nonprofit organization that grants wishes to children with life-threatening diseases. It was founded in 1980 when the first wish was granted to a boy who wished to be a police officer. Since then, the foundation has granted more than 198,012 wishes.
For a child to be eligible to make a wish, he or she must be older than two-and-a-half years old and under 18. A physician, parent or guardian, or the child may send in a referral. A doctor on the board of the foundation confirms that the illness is life threatening, and once that is determined, it moves to the next process, said Catherine Anspach, Kern County community director for Make-A-Wish of Central California.
Four different types of wishes can be granted: a wish to go somewhere; a wish to be someone or something, such as a police officer; a wish to meet someone, typically a celebrity; and a wish to have something, like a shopping spree. The average wish costs is about $6,000.
"When you raise the money here, you can see where this money is going," Anspach said. "A wish gives so much more than money can buy."
The foundation will accommodate every need to make each wish come true. If a family needs luggage to pack for their trip, Make-A-Wish will help and even drive a family to get passports if that is what they need.
Anspach said they are always looking for ways to enhance the wish. One child wanted to ride in a Ferrari, but what he got instead was an entire car show just for him. It featured a Ferrari and 19 other sports cars.
To raise money in the community, the foundation hosts local fundraisers throughout the year. Some are big; some are small.
Every year, a local Moose Lodge puts on a car show that benefits the Central California chapter. Macy's department store hosts a "letter to Santa" campaign every year, and every letter written means a dollar donated to Make-A-Wish Foundation. Another local fundraiser, "Helmet of Hope," was started by Ken Wiggens, whose grandson suffered from leukemia.
Some families stay involved even after their child has received a wish, such as the Wiggens family.
"It's great when their families become a part of our family," said Anspach. "They're what makes this happen."
Getting to know the kids is Anspach's favorite part of her job, she said. And people can volunteer to get to know the kids, too.
The Central California chapter is always in need of volunteers to either help grant wishes or help with administration work as well.
For more information on how to volunteer, call 559-221-9474, or visit centralca.wish.org.