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January 8, 2013 > Ice cream social

Ice cream social

By Simon Wong
Photos By Dana Hamilton

Over the past decade, Make-A-Wish Foundation's Annual National Ice Cream Social has raised approximately $4M. The Foundation grants wishes to children, aged between two-and-a-half and 18 years who have life-threatening medical conditions. Last year the event was held September 27, hosted locally by Cold Stone Creamery in Fremont.

In 1980, seven-year old Christopher James Greicius, who suffered from leukemia, realized his dream of becoming a police officer. US Customs Officer Tommy Austin, who had befriended Greicius and his mother Linda Bergendahl-Pauling, decided to lift the boy's spirits when his condition deteriorated. Greicius spent the day as a police officer, flew in a police helicopter, received a bespoke police uniform from Johns Uniforms, whose store owner and two seamstresses completed it overnight, and was sworn in as the first honorary Department of Public Safety patrolman in Arizona history. Sadly, Greicius died soon after but his wish became the inspiration for the largest wish-granting organization in the world.

Once Make-A-Wish America was established, interest in granting wishes spread overseas. Make-A-Wish International was eventually founded in 1993 to serve five countries outside the US and now serves children in 47 countries on five continents through 36 affiliates and has touched the lives of more than 167,000 children. The organization could not fulfill its mission without its network of almost 25,000 volunteers who serve as wish granters, fundraisers, special events assistants and in many other capacities.

"Most of the funds raised have come from customers' donations, supplemented by the sale of ice cream," added store manager Claudia Martinez, Cold Stone Creamery, Fremont Hub.

The Greater Bay Area Chapter is one of the more successful. Unlike others, it does not have a waiting list and has just granted its six-thousandth wish. In effect, any eligible child's wish is likely to come true. All the wishes granted are for local children and the funds raised are from local companies.

Chapters publicize events through their websites and social media and invite Wish families to attend, encouraging them to inform their own friends and relatives. Approximately one dozen Wish families participated in the 2012 National Ice Cream Social. Eleven-year old Tori Hamilton, from San Lorenzo, spent the evening at the Fremont Hub store.

"Tori was born at 25 weeks and suffered a brain hemorrhage causing several conditions including cerebral palsy that affects her right side, hydrocephalus, developmental delays, seizures, complete deafness and legal blindness which makes sign-language difficult. In 2011, Tori received a touch-screen computer to help her communicate through the generosity of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and its supporters. Ten days ago, we received a call saying she had been chosen, as a past recipient, to be guest of honor and honorary scooper for this event. We readily agreed to participate; it was like a second wish because she loves ice cream and always likes to go behind the counter," stated Tori's mother, Dana Hamilton. "Without their help, Tori wouldn't have a computer like this. It's helped her communication and education tremendously. It's been fun, too. She can now watch a movie simply by touching a screen; it means more independence. There are many kids out there; granting their wishes makes the world of difference," said a grateful mother.

Anyone can refer a child who satisfies the eligibility criteria and has medical approval. The biggest misconception is that the life-threatening illness should be terminal. Approximately 80 percent of the children referred enter adulthood. Doctors recognize the positive effect of the Foundation's work and regard it as an integral part of the child's recovery; consequently, Make-A-Wish has excellent relationships with local medical practitioners and hospitals which refer children.

"It's gratifying that Make-A-Wish Foundation has evolved from a wish-granting charity into a recovery organization," says Leah Laderas, Corporate Relations Manager, Greater Bay Area Chapter.

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