How to Make a Wish, Part 3

Oct 10, 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 and here for Part 2.)

When you hear the term "shopping spree," you're probably picturing someone in a store frantically pulling things off of shelves and piling them into the cart as quickly as possible. Pre-Covid, this was fairly close to the way Make-A-Wish did it (although, since there was a predetermined budget, the crazed greediness was probably minimized slightly). 

As Aaron prepared for his wish, one of the coordinators actually called and said that Make-A-Wish had just barely reinstated this original kind of shopping spree. It came with some perks (a ride to the store in a limo, lunch out on the town, etc.), but I knew Aaron would much prefer to do his shopping online where he would not be overwhelmed by all of the choices right in front of him and would have plenty of time to tweak his list.

At the beginning of August, he was given the go-ahead to start creating his list. They emailed all of the guidelines ahead of time (how much he could spend, the types of items that were not approved, etc.). Although he was allowed to shop at most stores, they requested that if it was available on Amazon that he select it from there since it was tax free for them. 

This was the fun part. Aaron already knew many of the things he wanted since he'd been thinking about them for months. The very first item that was added to the list was the Lego Millennium Falcon. 

To keep things organized, Mike made a spreadsheet, organized by category with a running total of the cost. The categories were Clothes, Computer/Printing, Fun, Gaming Center, Lego, and Snack Bar. Mike and Aaron stayed up late adding and subtracting things until they got it just right. I mostly stayed out of this process since my suggestions were not appealing to a 13-year-old boy. 

In addition to Aaron's money, each of the other boys were also given $50 to spend on an item of their choice. This was really fun and exciting for them and made them feel a part of the experience. Clark chose a Playmobil pony set while the others all went with Lego (big surprise). 

When Aaron was satisfied with his list, I forwarded it to coordinator at Make-A-Wish who purchased the items and had them shipped to the home of one of the wish granters. One of the problems with Amazon is that prices can fluctuate depending on the day, so Aaron had a few smaller items that were easy to add or remove depending on the final cost when everything was purchased.

Since our wish granter, Megan, wasn't the one to actually buy the items but would be receiving them, I emailed a copy of the spreadsheet to her so she would have a heads up of everything that was coming. She said it was the most organized, streamlined shopping spree she'd ever done.

Aaron's wish presentation was scheduled for the very last day of August so that there would be enough time for everything to arrive. It wasn't only Aaron who was excited. The other boys eagerly counted down the days, informing me every day, "It's only [17 . . .11 . . . 3] days until Aaron's wish!" 

The plan was to go to Scheels at 8:00am before the store opened. All of Aaron's items had been delivered ahead of time, and Scheels' employees had wrapped them up. (The thought of all of those Amazon packages being gift-wrapped in Scheel's amused me just a little.) Scheels is a large sporting goods and outdoor recreation store. With fun attractions like wildlife exhibits and a giant Ferris wheel in the middle of the store, it's an experience, not just a place.

We invited extended family members to come for the wish presentation, but because it was at a rather inconvenient time (8:00 on a Tuesday morning), only my parents, one of my brothers, Mike's mom, and one of Mike's sisters could come. It ended up being a small, intimate group, and I actually think it was perfect. As much fun as it would have been to have more people there, it definitely would have been chaotic and stressful. This felt like the focus was truly all on Aaron, and he loved every minute of it.

When we arrived at the store, a couple of employees came out to the parking lot to greet us. Megan and Maddie were also there, as well as another representative from Make-A-Wish. When our whole group was assembled, we entered the store with Aaron leading the way. 

Balloons lined the entryway, and Scheels' employees stood on the sides cheering for Aaron. This kind of attention is not his favorite, so he made his way through the people as quickly as possible to the pile of presents they had set up near the Ferris wheel and aquarium. (At one point, I assured the Scheels' coordinator that even though Aaron's reactions were subdued, it was not for lack of excitement or pleasure. Clark, on the other hand, was doing his best to make up for Aaron's reserve.)

They had Aaron open his presents first. Even though he already knew what they were, it was still thrilling to unwrap them and hold the tangible objects in his hands. Scheels had even thrown in a few surprises: a Jazz hat (which Aaron immediately traded out for the one he'd been wearing), a signed photo of Zach Wilson, and a Wilson BYU shirt. The other boys opened their gifts, too. With all of the items grouped together, it looked like quite the mountain of (super fun) stuff.

Then the Scheels' coordinator told Aaron, "For the next hour and fifteen minutes, the store is yours! You can ride the Ferris wheel, play the arcade games, or go to the shooting range and bowling alley. We have breakfast set up for you in the cafe whenever you're ready." They really gave him the VIP treatment.

We started with the Ferris wheel. It had been a very long time since we'd done anything like an amusement park ride. As we went around and around, we felt the magic of the moment. I told the boys, "I bet none of your friends are riding a Ferris wheel before school this morning!"

We split up after that--the boys trying out the various other activities while the adults stood around and chatted. We didn't rush; it felt like we had just the right amount of time to get our fill of everything before the store opened for the day. 

We ended with cinnamon rolls, key lime cookies, and juice in the cafe. Mike's sister and my brother carried out all of Aaron's presents and loaded them into her van while we finished doing things inside. Somehow we ended up agreeing to take all of the balloons home with us, which made for an exciting ride.

The boys had eagerly anticipated this event for months, and it actually lived up to the hype for them. They loved every part of it. I thought it might be a let down to drop them off at school on the way home, but they were still riding high from all of it and didn't seem to mind. 

Meanwhile, Aaron cracked into one of his Lego sets right away (but not the Millennium Falcon--he saved that one for last). Later that night, we ordered take-out, courtesy of Make-A-Wish, to wrap up a truly awesome day.

You might be wondering what a 13-year-old boy decides to get with a significant amount of money. Here's a complete list, for those who are curious: BYU t-shirt, Jazz t-shirt, Jazz socks, Jazz jersey, gaming computer (to use with virtual reality), computer monitor, 3-D printer, 3 rolls of 3-D printer material, hover kart (to use with a hoverboard he already owned), dart board, darts, sound system, two gaming chairs (which one of the Scheels' employees liked so much that she decided to purchase a couple of the same for her family), Nintendo gift cards to purchase games for the Switch, one pro-controller for the Switch, Lego Millennium Falcon, Lego Star Destroyer, Lego Bugatti, small buffet (to use as a snack bar), microwave, drink fridge, three candy dispensers, M&M's and nuts. 

It's difficult to describe what this experience meant to Aaron. On the surface, it looked like a a young teenager just getting to buy things he'd never have the chance to under normal circumstances. But it was actually so much more than that. It was the months of planning and decisions and anticipation that distracted him from his current reality, which often seemed hard and dismal. It was having something to look forward to--first, New Zealand and then, the shopping spree. It was having something to talk about that was not transfusions or transplants or blood counts. It was interacting with people who were kind and enthusiastic and wanted the best for Aaron. 

It was making a wish and having it come true.


  1. I love what you said here:
    But it was actually so much more than that. It was the months of planning and decisions and anticipation that distracted him from his current reality, which often seemed hard and dismal. It was having something to look forward to--first, New Zealand and then, the shopping spree. It was having something to talk about that was not transfusions or transplants or blood counts.

  2. Wow, what a wonderful event Scheels made of the gift presentation! That really culminates the planning and anticipation and distraction, and I hope Aaron didn't feel left out when the brothers went off to school and he went home to enjoy his new hoard!

    (Also, the gaming chairs look really comfortable. We had a couple during the prime teen years and they still see some use.)

  3. I loved reading every bit of this (all three parts)! I'm so glad it all turned out so wonderfully!


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