ENON — Enon Elementary School third graders came together in the spirit of giving on Friday, Dec. 20 as they presented $600 they had collected to the Greater Springfield Area Chapter of A Special Wish Foundation.
The students in Julie Pratt, Rita Mendenhall, and Lynn Cleland’s classrooms, many cladded in their pajamas for Pajama Day, beamed with pride as Pratt presented the check to Special Wish volunteers Karen Benkert and Sheryl Roddy.
“By you helping us, we are able to help very sick children by granting their wishes,” Benkert said to the students. “The children are especially happy when they learn that someone you age has given money for their special wish.”
Benkert explained the non-profit, charitable organization is dedicated to granting the wishes of children under the age of 21 who have been diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses. Whenever possible, immediate family members are also included in the granting of wishes to maximize the joy and memories for the children.
“We are the third largest wish-granting organization in the United States and are now an international organization,” Benkert said. “Since our founding in Ohio in 1982, we have granted thousands of wishes to children with serious medical conditions.”
According to Benkert, every sick child has his or her own unique wish. Some may wish for a special gift or a trip to a special place, especially Disney World. Others may dream of meeting their special hero or a famous person.
“We have hosted birthday parties and other special events for the children too,” said Benkert. “We recently gave a little girl, who is in bed all the time, a new bedroom with a TV and DVD player.”
Roddy noted that the local students’ donations are always used in Clark County and pointed out that the smallest efforts can make the largest impact on the foundation.
“We are a small chapter, and they help us keep our doors open,” Roddy said.
According to the teachers, the third graders have generously given annually to the Greater Springfield Area Chapter of A Special Wish Foundation for the last eight years, including some students who emptied out their piggy banks and others who donated all of their weekly allowances.
“This is the time of year when children can learn how important it is to give rather than receive,” said Pratt. “These students and their parents have generous hearts.”
Cleland added, “The students are very supportive and happy to help these children,”
Mendenhall noted that a simple pitch about helping seriously-ill children garnered the selfless idea of one student in her classroom to donate all of the money he had received for his birthday.
“I want to help buy a plane trip or a video game for a sick boy or girl,” said Wyatt Kaltenbach who donated $100 that he had collected for his birthday.
Pratt proudly pointed out that her students voted overwhelmingly to raise money for Special Wish rather than participate in a gift exchange. Third grader Mackenzie Cumby, who said she collected $4 from the tooth fairy, money from her father, and 28 cents from the bottom of her book bag, stated that she wanted to help make the dreams of sick children come true.
Thomas Clevenger said he hoped his contribution also helped change the life of a sick child.
“It makes me feel good that other children’s dreams will come true with our help,” Clevenger said.
Mark Warder, who summed up the feelings of most of the third-grade students, noted that sick children, too, have special wishes to have nice things and to go to nice places.
“I think it is great to give to Special Wish because I know that we are making a difference in the lives of these sick boys and girls,” said Warder.
Currently, the Greater Springfield Area Chapter of the Special Wish Foundation has a list of children whose special wishes still need to be granted. According to Benkert, individual donations are still the largest, single source of funding for A Special Wish Foundation.
Roddy stated that many kinds of volunteer opportunities exist at the Greater Springfield Area Chapter of A Special Wish Foundation, and all of them are vital to supporting the program and granting the children’s wishes. Youth and senior volunteers are also encouraged to join the local chapter.
“Volunteers are currently needed to serve on committees, help raise funds, and plan wishes,” Roddy said.
Anyone who wish to make a donation or volunteer his or her time and talents to A Special Wish Foundation, please contact Benkert or Roddy at 937-322-7523 or visit the Greater Springfield Area Chapter of A Special Wish Foundation at specialwish.wordpress.com.