Partner Profile: Make-A-Wish Southern Florida
The sole mission of Make-A-Wish® Southern Florida is to create life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses. Started in 1983 by the Plantation Junior Woman’s Club, in the 35-year history of the Southern Florida chapter, the organization has granted more than 11,000 wishes to children in need. As proud partners of the Southern Florida branch, the Finker-Frenkel Family Foundation regularly adopts wishes – essentially underwriting the financial aspect of the wish-granting process – and helps to make them a reality. Additionally, the family is deeply involved in sponsoring the organization’s annual Make-A-Wish gala, and Finker-Frenkel Family Foundation Director Eugene Frenkel sits on the Board of the Southern Florida chapter.
The Make-A-Wish® Foundation has spent decades bringing hope and joy into the lives of children around the globe, but the organization’s impact on these kids runs so much deeper than just giving them a fun experience.
According to a study from Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the physical and emotional benefits of wish granting can actually help improve children’s medical outcomes, giving them a higher chance of survival. In fact, the study found that patients whose wishes were granted experienced fewer unplanned hospital and emergency room visits and helped to lower stress by boosting their overall mood.
Below are two stories of wishes, granted by the Finker-Frenkel Family Foundation, that helped two children living with severe illness and their families find a renewed sense of peace
Helping Caroline Meet Her Hero
12-year-old Caroline had always felt a deep connection to professional surfer Bethany Hamilton. Just like Bethany, Caroline was born in Hawaii, loved to surf, and knew a thing or two about overcoming personal tragedy – she was born with a nervous system disorder.
Caroline was inspired by Bethany’s ability to prevail over adversity. In 2003, the then-13-year-old rising surf star lost her left arm after being attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark. But she didn’t let that end her career. Instead, she went on to make some serious waves in the professional surfing and motivational speaking communities.
Caroline had her heart set on meeting and surfing with Bethany. A donation from the Finker-Frenkel Family Foundation helped to make that dream a reality.
With the Foundation’s contribution, Make-A-Wish® Southern Florida was able to send Caroline to Kauai to attend a surf camp orientation dinner. Back in her birthplace, Caroline received a private lesson with Bethany’s own surfing coach and was able to spend a day in the ocean with Bethany and other pro surfers at the Make-A-Wish® Hawaii Surf Camp. She also was given a goodie bag filled with surf gear, a beach bag stuffed with island treats and a basket of local Hawaiian fruit.
After surf camp, Caroline attended a luau where she was gifted with her very own ukulele, spent some quality time with Bethany herself at a meet-and-greet and got to watch Soul Surfer, the movie inspired by Bethany’s story, as Bethany and her brother gave live commentary about each scene.
For each wish, Make-A-Wish sends two volunteers to meet with the child and their family and help to carry out part of the wish. These people are called “wish granters.” While they don’t provide any funding for the wish granting process, they use their own time and energy to help make the wish a reality for the children.
Caroline’s wish was granted by Janet Ingraham and Heidi Starr and she referred to Make-A-Wish by her social worker, Elba Necega.
Getting Omar on His Game
At 17, Omar was a gamer and tech buff who had always been fascinated by video games and the latest new gadget. Though he spent most of his days at the doctor battling a congenital heart disease, Omar occupied his mind with thoughts of playing his favorite video games on his very own PlayStation gaming system.
Through a donation from the Finker-Frenkel Family Foundation, Omar was able to realize this dream and go on a much-deserved shopping spree at Sawgrass Mall in Sunrise Florida. After he and his family were picked up in a limo, their star treatment continued at the mall, where he was able to buy some fresh new clothes, a new TV for his mom and sister, and, of course, a brand-new PlayStation.
To top off the day, Omar and his family ate their way through the Rainforest Café’s most delectable offerings and headed home with a limo full of presents and a renewed sense of hope.
“He got everything he wanted,” said Omar’s wish granter, Fran. “He was treated like a true VIP with all the bells and whistles, and left feeling nothing short of a king.”
Normally, Omar’s life is occupied by doctors’ appointments, tests and procedures, but that day, Omar was able to feel a new kind of freedom: He was able to forget about his health issues, and just be a kid. It was the same for his family: instead of worrying about the price tag, they were all able to come together for an amazing, carefree day of fun, a memory they will hold onto for years to come.
Additionally, having the ability to pick out special presents was a way for Omar to say thank-you to his mother and sister for all that they do for him every day, a gesture that meant so much to the whole family.
Omar’s wish was referred to Make-A-Wish by his nurse, Barbara Gomez.
For more information on Make-A-Wish Southern Florida and the wish granting process, please visit https://sfla.wish.org/about-us/the-make-a-wish-story/granting-wishes