By Jeff Smith, Adult “Wish Kid” and Volunteer
Being a part of the Make-A-Wish family has truly been a rewarding and life-changing experience. I began interning at Make-A-Wish in May 2015. A few weeks into my internship, social media volunteer and Wish Kid Mike Mort approached me (the man behind the blog) and asked if I’d be interested in sharing my story. I’ve never really been a very open person when it comes to talking about my illness, so I was very hesitant at first and kind of kept putting it off. Now, three months later, I’ve volunteered for two events and worked in the office weekly. From this experience, I’ve come to realize I’m a part of a very special group of people with the power to inspire, give hope, and show that there’s a world beyond hospitals and doctors offices.
Awful things happen all the time, but you never really expect it to happen to you. I certainly didn’t think I was going to be diagnosed with Leukemia. Like most teenagers, I thought I was basically bulletproof. The change from a typical 15-year-old to a cancer patient was definitely not the easiest transition. My daily routine, instead of attending class and participating on my high school’s sports teams, became frequent hospital visits and constant treatments. The things I thought were the most important in the world at the time became second to my illness. Fortunately, I didn’t have very many complications and within two months I was in remission. I’m happy to say five years later I’m still cancer free and have never felt better!
It was right about this time when I was told I was eligible for a wish and met my amazing wish granters Sandy and Karen. I think most Wish Kids will agree – deciding on a wish is no easy task. It took me months to decide! My original wish was to go to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii and hopefully see some of my favorite Miami Dolphins players amongst the mix of the NFL’s best. Unfortunately, I was too sick to go and my trip got canceled a couple weeks before the game. I thought that was the end of my wish experience, but to my surprise they let me wish again.
At the time when I had to decide on my new wish, I was a senior in high school dreaming of leaving home and getting the whole college experience. I think because my time in high school was so unorthodox, college became a very big deal. I always felt like it was a chance at a fresh start and an opportunity to put my illness behind me. Unfortunately, I was still receiving preventative treatment, so leaving home for college just wasn’t a feasible option. In high school I had taken a few classes at LeMoyne College and really enjoyed them. Once I had been accepted, LeMoyne was at the top of my list. The location was perfect because it was close to both my house and Upstate, where I was receiving treatments. So, with this in mind, I made my wish.
I found out my wish for higher education was accepted during an award ceremony on my last day of high school. I was presented with a scholarship from Make-A-Wish in combination with LeMoyne College. One moment of pure shock and surprise was greater than any trip I could have taken. It was an incredible feeling being able to share that moment with my friends, family, classmates, and of course my wish granters.
I feel very lucky to have been a part of the Make-A-Wish family as both a wish kid and an intern. “Lucky” isn’t typically an adjective a person uses to describe their feelings about being diagnosed with a serious disease. Even though I faced a lot of hardships dealing with my illness, my wish has truly impacted my life for the better. I hope that in some way my work here has given a child in my position this same inexplicable feeling.