Saturday September 22, 2012

The Reformer was pleased to recently meet with Barbara Harris.

Harris of Brattleboro was recently elected to serve a three-year term on the Board of Directors of the Vermont Make-A-Wish Foundation. She, along with 11 other members who make up the board, will do their best to ensure children with life threatening illnesses have a wish granted.

Perhaps they’re looking to meet a famous celebrity or sports star. Maybe they want to travel some place special. It could be a gift or an experience. But, perhaps most of all, it grants them a few moments, however brief, to forget about their problems and just enjoy being a kid.

"This group helps children who are going through a very tough period in their life, and we help them so they have a good memory later on," Harris told the Reformer earlier this week. "I want to do everything I can to help them grow."

Founded in 1980, Make-A-Wish Foundation, based in Phoenix, Ariz., and boasting 69 chapters throughout the United States, is the largest wish-granting organization in the world. Here’s some numbers to consider:

-- More than 148,000: That’s how many wishes the foundation has been able to grant in the past 30-plus years.

--Nearly 25,000: That’s how many volunteers work with Make-A-Wish to bring smiles to children in the greatest need.

-- 41: A wish is granted by the foundation every 41 minutes.

-- $6,450: The average cost of a wish, covered by the foundation, which, as Make-A-Wish puts it, gives "the wish kid and family a respite from the stress of dealing with a life-threatening medical condition."

According to the foundation, in fiscal year 2006, the most requested wishes were: a visit to a Disney theme park (41.5 percent); travel-related wishes (19.3 percent); shopping sprees (10.9 percent); new computers or electronics (8.7 percent); and celebrity-related meetings (6.1 percent).

Harris said most of Vermont’s population is in the northern half of the state. Many of the sickest children end up in Burlington, at Fletcher Allen Medical Center, or at Dartmouth Hitchcock in Lebanon, N.H.

She related one story of a child she was working with battling a particularly challenging illness. Her doctor said the child could not fulfill her wish until she was through the treatment. Later, after the wish was granted, the child’s mother told Harris that the dream of fulfilling the wish was always a target that kept her going through the treatments.

"It is such a wonderful thing and there are still people who don’t know about it," she said.

Simply saying thanks to Harris, the Vermont board of Make-A-Wish, and everyone working with the group across the country just doesn’t seem like enough. The importance of the work they’re doing for these children could never be overstated.

Please take a moment to learn a little more about the foundation -- www.Vermont.wish.org. Or, at the very least, take a moment to offer a pray, quiet reflection, or whatever your personal belief system would suggest, to keep these people and the children they assist in your thoughts.