Yosemite ‘Make a Wish’ dream, others told to RCF

Sawyer, a 10-year-old Knox County boy, was “a different kid, full of energy,” Garrett Wagley, Make-A-Wish Foundation of East Tennessee CEO, told The Rotary Club of Farragut members during a Wednesday, Jan. 14, virtual meeting.

“He was one of those kids whose favorite things to do were to play outside, run around and get dirty.

“That all ended a couple years ago when he was diagnosed with leukemia,” Wagley added. “Along with the feelings of loneliness and isolation, (Sawyer) felt he was losing his childhood.”

The boy’s biggest wish was to go to Yosemite National Park, so Make-A-Wish arranged a trip for him and his family to Yosemite, where he went fishing and did the outdoor things he enjoyed most.

“It was a tremendous experience for Sawyer,” Wagley said. “It gave him a piece of his childhood. The trip came at the perfect time for them to reconnect as a family.”

A boy from Maryville was born with a congenital heart defec,t and a heart valve had to be replaced. His wish was to go to a Christian camp in Colorado. Now 21, the boy attends seminary school — and baptized his mother and sister.

“The trip made an impact,” Wagley said, noting many times he is told a wish changed the recipients’ and their families’ lives.

“I’m told that a lot,” adding the wishes change the projection of a child’s life.

“Make a Wish is a lot about stories and about hearing the stories,” he noted.

RCF member Scott Bertini soon will get to experience firsthand wishes coming true, as he recently was trained as a “wish granter” for Make-A-Wish.

“Just recently, I’ve had a passion for getting more involved in the community, and Make-A-Wish Foundation is an organization I’ve always been interested in,” he said.

A father of twin 5-year-olds, “I really think God’s blessed me very much with healthy children, but not everybody is as fortunate,” Bertini added. “I think that (with) kids, especially, it’s even tougher when they have to go through a critical illness or, worse case, a terminal illness.

“I think that, if I can be a small part of bringing a child joy, that it’s the type of things I want to be a part of. I think God gives us all an opportunity to serve others, and this is how I want to give back.

Make-A-Wish works to make true the wishes of children and youth between 2 ½ and 18 years old, Wagley explained.

While many think the wishes the children make are the final wishes, he said, “It’s not just final wishes that we make happen. We do wishes as they come to us, and in the vast majority of cases the wishes improve their medical diagnosis and the kids have better outcomes.”

The East Tennessee chapter of Make-A-Wish Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization that is one of 59 in the country, covers 36 counties.

Wagley said they have partnerships with Disney World, Allegiant Airlines and cruise lines, as more than 60 percent of the wishes involve trips to Disney World.

To contribute to Make-A-Wish, visit http://wish.org/ent/our-chapter