How to Make a Wish, Part 2

Sep 25, 2021

(I had a lot to share about Aaron's Make-a-Wish experience, so I broke it down into several posts. Click here for Part 1.)

At first, Aaron had very little interest in talking, or even thinking, about a different wish (I mean, can you blame him?). I talked to several people at Make-A-Wish to see if his wish could simply be put on hold. I told them Aaron was fine with waiting until it was safe to travel again. Although everyone was very sympathetic, they wouldn't (couldn't) compromise. 

For one thing, Make-A-Wish is a nonprofit organization. For tax reasons, they have to fulfill a certain number of wishes every month. They couldn't have a backlog of kids waiting for wishes. They had to keep the cycle going.

For another, they had a rule that a wish could not sit around waiting for more than a year after the process started. Although many wish kids have chronic conditions, others have illnesses that, although critical, can eventually be cured. Aaron fell into the second category. If too much time passes, then these kids have the potential of going back to their normal, healthy selves and no longer qualify for a wish. They said that Aaron was at risk of this happening if he waited too long to declare his wish. (As it turned out, Aaron was about to extend his time by needing a second transplant, but we didn't know that then. And it wouldn't have changed anything in terms of being able to keep his travel wish anyway.)

So Mike and I sat down with Aaron and brainstormed some new ideas. And we came up with three good ones:

  • It is a well-known fact that Aaron loves Lego, so he thought it would be fun to turn the toy room into a Lego builder's paradise: large workspace, cool decorations, easy organization, lights, and, of course, more Lego. (Think LegoMasters, but on a smaller scale.)
  • The family room was another area of the house he thought could use a revamp. He had the idea of creating the ultimate gaming room: video game console, sound system, new TV, entertainment center, comfortable seating. etc.
  • His third idea was to turn the balcony into a fun hangout space. We basically hadn't touched it since we moved into our house. He thought it would be fun to add stairs so it would be accessible from the outside, add furniture and a snack bar, put up lighting, and hang a TV for outdoor movies. 

Megan and Maddie came over to our house to see all of the potential spaces and talk through various options. Each idea came with complications: there were things Make-A-Wish could do but other things they couldn't. For example, they weren't allowed to do any type of construction. They also would need a lot of guidance and vision to bring about any of the options, and making decisions is one thing Aaron does not like.

As we talked, the "magic" started to fade. Just like any organization, Make-A-Wish is governed by rules and protocols. So even though they want their wish kids to dream big, there is only so much they can do. 

When Aaron wished to go to New Zealand, the magic was there. They said "YES!" and took the entire planning process from there. It was out of our hands. They would work out tickets, accommodations, activities. All we had to do was show up.

I expected it to be the same with other types of wishes, and probably that is the case if you want to meet someone famous or there's a single large item you want (like a pop-up camper). But a room makeover requires a lot of logistics, and as we went through them, each idea was met with, "Well, we could do this part of it, but not that . . . " It felt like real life.

Before they left, the wish granters tentatively suggested that Aaron might want to wish for a shopping spree instead. Most of his ideas included a bunch of items: large desk or table for the Lego room, sound system for the game room, furniture for the balcony. Why not just get the things he wanted and create one of the rooms himself?

I was initially opposed to a shopping spree. It just seemed so materialistic: I wish for a bunch of money to go out and buy whatever I want. It didn't feel creative or special. It was just going to be a pile of stuff . . . Christmas on steroids.

But as we talked to Aaron about the various options, he came to the conclusion that this was, in fact, the best choice. The other wishes couldn't be completely fulfilled; a shopping spree could. Plus, as Aaron started talking about some of the things he had always wanted but would always be too expensive (the Lego Millennium Falcon came immediately to mind), I could see that the thought of getting to buy whatever he wanted actually was magical for a 13-year-old. As Mike was quick to point out, "As everyone knows, if a genie has to grant you a wish, you always wish for more wishes." That's essentially what the shopping spree felt like.

Aaron called Megan and told her he was officially changing his wish to a shopping spree. He was genuinely very happy about it.

It was around this same time that the sporting goods store, Scheels, first became involved. Many companies reach out to Make-A-Wish to sponsor a wish kid or host an event or participate in a wish in some way. When Scheels did that, Make-A-Wish paired Aaron with them.

At first, Scheels was going to throw the proclamation event for Aaron. This is where the wish kid finds out that his wish has been approved and is officially on the docket to be granted. These proclamation events are typically fun parties with lots of family and friends attending.

Aaron's proclamation party was scheduled for mid-November 2020. However, the date happened to fall right when the governor issued a stay-at-home order to try to curb the pandemic. All non-essential get-togethers, parties, and events had to be cancelled. So Aaron's proclamation party was postponed until further notice.

The holidays were fast approaching, which is, understandably, a very busy time of year for a big retailer like Scheels. So the event was put on hold until after the new year.

And you know what happened at the beginning of 2021:

Aaron's bone marrow crashed, he was back in the hospital on a regular basis, and he needed lots of transfusions. The wish was the furthest thing from our minds as we went back into full-on survival mode. (Interestingly, he relapsed during the very time period when we were originally supposed to be in New Zealand, leading me to think that maybe the cancelled wish was a tender mercy after all.)

Knowing that a party at Scheels was going to be impossible, Megan and Maddie took the proclamation into their own hands. One evening, they showed up in aprons and chef's hats with a huge pizza from The Pie and a smaller "pizza" made of money. This was accompanied by a note that said he would soon be receiving some "dough" for a shopping spree. They did such a good job of keeping the excitement alive, even as the months dragged on.

Because of Aaron's need for a second transplant, Aaron's wish got pushed back to May, then June, then July. Scheel's still wanted to be involved, but they switched to planning the wish presentation instead of the proclamation. We just had to make sure that Aaron was healthy and stable enough to be able to go.

I was so grateful that Scheel's was willing to wait for Aaron. I knew from the start that Scheel's would be a great pairing for Aaron, and I didn't want him to miss out on the opportunity. At the same time, we couldn't rush into it. Aaron's health had to come first. (Luckily, everyone at Make-A-Wish is very cognizant of the vulnerability of the kids they're dealing with, so they were very patient with the process, and fortunately for us, so was Scheel's.)

As I was in communication with Aaron's wish granters and other people at Make-A-Wish to pin down a date for the fulfillment of his wish, Megan realized that the month we were planning for (July) was the same month as Aaron's thirteenth birthday. It turned out that thirteen was a big deal because it would bump Aaron up into a higher bracket in terms of the shopping spree budget. If the wish was fulfilled in July, he would be in the lower bracket (his birthday was at the end of the month); if he waited until August, he would be in the higher bracket. We had no idea that there were different allotments depending on the age of the child. With just a few weeks separating one amount from the other, everyone at Make-A-Wish highly encouraged him to wait.

So it was set for August, and Aaron was eagerly anticipating it through the whole summer. 

But then, he was thrown one more curveball: Make-A-Wish called and offered him back his travel wish.

With Covid-19 somewhat more stable (at least at that time), they had opened up travel wishes within the United States. Aaron still couldn't go to New Zealand, but he could go anywhere in the US. 

Even though it wasn't his original wish, it was very tempting. He loves traveling and has missed it so much during these months being cooped up at home. Even with boundaries on where he could go, the possibilities still felt endless--Hawaii, Alaska, Florida, New York--and each place offered an array of attractions, depending on what he was in the mood for.

He agonized over this decision for several weeks. And when I say "agonized," I really do mean agonized. I couldn't even bring it up without him crying or shutting down. We made a list of pros and cons with both wishes, but neither produced a clear answer. He was sure that whichever wish he picked, he would regret not choosing the other one. The wish process had already been full of so many decisions, and as nice as it was to have this as an option again, I think it would have been better for Aaron if he hadn't known about it. 

In the end, it was time that made the decision for him. He had already been waiting nearly two years for his wish. The shopping spree wish was literally going to be fulfilled the very next month. The travel wish, on the other hand, wasn't going to happen until next spring or summer. Things have been so up and down in the world and Aaron's own health that we could see the wish being pushed back again or switched back to a shopping spree wish. I think he was just feeling a bit tired of plans changing on him, and I couldn't blame him. I texted Megan and told her he had decided to stick with his shopping spree wish.

As so often happens after a decision has been made, Aaron felt extreme relief and happiness just to be moving forward again. He was fully on board with and excited for the shopping spree. Contrary to what he was worried about, he actually didn't have wish remorse about letting go of the trip. 

He was ready to start making the ultimate, most epic shopping list of his life . . .

1 comment:

  1. I can really get decision problems! I'm so glad Aaron found something he was happy with, and I look forward to hear about the execution.


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