Wish Ball boasts record-breaking support for Make-A-Wish Arizona

Author: Lenore Carey

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Chase Field erupted in applause as Aubrie, a nineteen-year-old cancer survivor, summed up her Make-A-Wish experience with a clear statement: “The wish made me feel free and exceptional.” Visiting the beautiful islands of French Polynesia gave her something to look forward to at a time when she needed it most. Make-A-Wish Arizona is dedicated to creating memorable experiences for critically-ill children like Aubrie, right here in our own cities. 

This year’s Wish Ball took place on March 9, 2024 at Chase Field stadium. The Wish Ball is not just a high-profile gala. It also serves as a gathering place for Make-A-Wish families to share their stories of strength and perseverance. Live music, dancing, auctions, and photo booth activities set the mood for fun. 

Since its humble beginnings in 1980, Make-A-Wish has granted over 8,000 wishes for critically-ill children in Arizona. In 2024, 450 children are expected to receive wishes, which is more than ever before in a single year. The 2024 Wish Ball attracted a record-breaking crowd of 1,100 supporters, and raised $2.7 million to help those 450 wishes become a reality.

In a special ceremony, Derrick Hall accepted the first-ever Make-A-Wish Arizona Community Partner Award on behalf of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

“There is nothing like granting a  wish,” Hall declared. “It is the most rewarding thing you can do.” Although the Diamondbacks donated several unique experiences to the live auction, none of the gifts were as generous as the dozens of wishes the team has granted for Make-A-Wish Arizona.

Azul, a thirteen-year-old leukemia survivor, described her wish for a family trip to Disney World while waiting in line for the 360º photo booth. The vacation gave her an opportunity to spend time with her siblings, who had been alienated during her extended stay in the hospital. “Make-A-Wish felt like a milestone in her treatment,” said Azul’s mother. “It was a huge memory for our family.”

The idea for an organization like Make-A-Wish came from the unlikely story of a young boy and his harrowing battle with cancer. In April 1980, a close-knit group of police officers were introduced to Chris Greicius, a seven-year-old boy who had been diagnosed with terminal leukemia. Despite his severe illness, Chris enthusiastically expressed his dreams to become a police officer.

Next, the police officers did something which would change their lives forever. After gifting Chris an authentic, tailored police uniform, they brought him along in the squad car for the day. None of the officers would ever forget the joy and contentment on the little boy’s face. Tragically, Chris Greicius passed away two days after his wish was granted. Make-A-Wish has since expanded to bring the magic of a wish to children in fifty countries, spanning six continents.

Among the diverse crowd of  supporters at the Wish Ball was Chris Greicius’s mother, Linda Pauling. Nearly 44 years have passed since her son’s wish was granted. She often attends fundraisers to speak about her family’s testimony. “Make-A-Wish started with $37.76,” said Fran Mallace, President and CEO of Make-A-Wish Arizona. “Every time [Linda] speaks, she will always bring an envelope with $37.76, because it’s so meaningful that Make-A-Wish is a global phenomenon now.”

Behind every child’s wish is a team of dedicated volunteers. Greg Wendelken and Nancy Jones have been Wish Granters for nine years. One of their favorite wishes they granted was that of a young man who asked to have his tuition payed to Arizona State University. “Those are the really special ones,” they agreed. “He  wanted a better education.”

Addressing a packed house of business titans and dignitaries, Fran Mallace said, ”The success of the 2024 Wish Ball is a testament to the incredible compassion of our community. The generosity of our donors, sponsors, medical professionals, volunteers and the Make-A-Wish team are essential for granting wishes. The funds raised will enable us to bring hope, strength, and joy to even more wish kids in the coming year.”

If you would like to learn more about how you can get involved in the legacy of Make-A-Wish, visit arizona.wish.org.


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