How to Make a Wish, Part 1

Sep 19, 2021

I sat down to write a post about Aaron's experience with Make-A-Wish and quickly realized that if I wanted to tell the whole story, it would turn into a massive post. So rather than edit my long-windedness, I decided to just break it down into three parts. 

Shortly after Aaron was diagnosed with bone marrow failure in August 2019, his fifth grade teacher called me and asked if I'd be okay if she referred him to the Make-A-Wish program. She felt like dreaming, planning, and anticipating a wish could help Aaron cope with the long months of treatment and recovery.

So she filled out all of the necessary paperwork, and in October 2019, just a couple of weeks after Aaron was released from the hospital following his first transplant, he met his wish granters, Megan and Maddie, for the first time.

This was pre-Covid, so our family was able to go to the Make-a-Wish building to brainstorm ideas and get to know his wish granters. Aaron was severely immunocompromised at the time, so it was just our immediate family and the wish granters. The building was quiet and empty, and it felt really special.

Aaron had been thinking about his wish in the weeks leading up to this meeting, but the only thing he had settled on for sure was that he wanted a trip. His top choice was New Zealand, but I gently tried to discourage him from that since it was so far away and would require many hours of travel (and a lot of jet lag) that would take away from the actual fun of the trip.

Megan and Maddie asked Aaron a lot of questions about his interests, and we all had a chance to write down our own wishes for Aaron's future. When they asked for his top wish, he said the Caribbean. They wrote it down, put it in a little capsule, and then Aaron unlocked the door to the wishing room. The inside of the room felt magical, especially as Aaron placed his wish inside the chamber.

After that night, Aaron started doing a lot of research about the islands in the Caribbean. He checked out travel DVDs and books. He looked into going on a cruise versus spending the whole time on one island. 

And the more he researched, the less enthusiastic or excited he seemed to be. I realized it was because he didn't actually want to go to the Caribbean; he wanted to go to New Zealand. I sat down with him and said that this was his wish and that if that was New Zealand, then he shouldn't switch to something else. The travel and jet lag wouldn't matter. He would still get several days in a country on the other side of the world--a country that most people only ever dreamed of going to. It would be worth any hassle or discomfort it took to get there.

So he switched his wish to New Zealand. And the spark returned. Since we would be traveling outside of the country with seven people, Make-a-Wish asked Aaron to write a letter explaining why he wanted this trip. One part of his letter said, 

"Before I got sick, I was on the swim team. I would love to go snorkeling and see all of the marine life in New Zealand. My brothers and I love to play outside and go exploring, and I think that there would be a lot of cool hikes, beaches, forests, and caves in New Zealand." 

A couple of weeks later, we received the news that Aaron's wish had been approved by the board. They planned to host an official proclamation to tell Aaron his wish was being granted. The trip itself wouldn't be able to happen until January or February of 2021, but they wanted us to get passports for all of the family as soon as possible so that everything would be all set on our end. 

So on a Friday afternoon in February 2020, we all trooped over to the passport office for photos and applications. Mike was super prepared and had filled out everything ahead of time so we could streamline the process . . . but then they told us he'd used the wrong color of ink. It was getting close to the end of the day, so we scrambled to fill out all of the paperwork again. 

Then they told us that it was their policy not to take passport photos of children under five years old, and we'd have to go somewhere else for Ian's photo. We begged them to make an exception and then prayed that he'd hold still (he did). We left the office feeling immensely satisfied at having checked off one of the most essential things for international travel. 

We thought the hardest part was going to be waiting for the months to pass until Aaron was healthy enough to travel and it was his turn in the Make-a-Wish queue. But the very next month, the world came to a grinding halt with the fast spread of Covid-19. 

We assumed Aaron would still get to travel to New Zealand even though it might be delayed due to the virus. However, in July 2020, I received a call from the Make-a-Wish director: all wish travel was officially cancelled; Aaron would have to choose a different wish. 

(To be continued . . . )


  1. I hope you guys get that trip to New Zealand someday; I do think you would like the cool beaches, forests, hikes and caves. Maybe that will be Aaron's mission!

  2. New Zealand is a wonderful place. I served my mission there. I hope you get to go soon

  3. Ben's sister Melissa and her family lived in New Zealand for several years. I loved seeing their photos and hearing about all of their adventurers there. -Beth I.


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