The Make-A-Wish Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in the United States that arranges experiences described as "wishes" to children with life-threatening medical conditions. In order to qualify for a wish, the child must be between the ages of 3 and 17 years at the time of referral. It is the child's physician that ultimately decides if a child is eligible.
The national headquarters and founding chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation are in Phoenix, Arizona. The organization grants wishes through its 61 chapters located throughout the US. Make-A-Wish also operates in 45 other countries around the world through 38 affiliate offices. The President and CEO of Make-A-Wish America is David A. Williams.
In the spring of 1980, 7-year-old Christopher James Greicius (August 13, 1972 – May 3, 1980) was being treated for leukemia. He aspired to be a police officer. U.S. Customs Officer Tommy Austin befriended Chris and worked with officers at the Arizona Department of Public Safety to plan an experience to lift Greicius' spirits. Chris spent the day as a police officer, rode in a police helicopter, received a custom-tailored police uniform, and was sworn in as the first honorary Public Safety patrolman in state history. Greicius died soon after, but his wish became inspiration for the Make-A-Wish wish-granting organization.
Professional wrestler John Cena holds the title for the most wishes granted by a single individual, with over 500 wishes. Singer Justin Bieber has volunteered in over 250 wishes. National Women's Collegiate Fraternity Chi Omega has raised over $14 million for Make-A-Wish since 2001.
Children who may be eligible to receive a wish can be referred by one of the following three sources:
- Medical professionals treating the child
- A parent or legal guardian
- The potential wish child
To refer a child, the appropriate referral source can use Make-A-Wish’s online inquiry form or contact the Make-A-Wish chapter closest to them. All medical information is considered confidential and is not discussed with outside parties unless it is required for the wish and the child’s parent(s) or guardian(s) have given their consent.
A child with a life-threatening medical condition who has reached the age of 2½ and is under the age of 18 at the time of referral, is potentially eligible for a wish. After a child is referred, the child’s treating physician must determine whether the child is medically eligible for a wish, based on the medical criteria established by Make-A-Wish. In addition, a child cannot have received a wish from another wish-granting organization.
Each Make-A-Wish chapter follows specific policies and guidelines for granting a child’s wish. Make-A-Wish works closely with the wish child’s physician and family to determine the most appropriate time to grant the wish, keeping in mind the child’s treatment protocol or other concerns. Most wish requests fall into five categories: I wish to go, I wish to be, I wish to meet, I wish to have, or I wish to give.
National Board of Directors: The National Board of Directors helps chart Make-A-Wish’s course. They contribute a vast array of experience and skills that help maintain Make-A-Wish’s status as the nation’s largest wish-granting organization. The board determines the mission and vision, evaluates and supports the president and chief executive officer and protects Make-A-Wish’s assets. The board enhances Make-A-Wish’s public standing, ensures accountability, maintains legal integrity, and assesses its own performance.
Senior Leadership Team: This team is composed of Make-A-Wish’s top-level management. Each member is a National Office leader in disciplines that include wish-granting, fundraising, legal, brand advancement and operational activities. The president and CEO guides the strategic plan in areas such as board development, talent development, fundraising, and corporate relations.
Make-A-Wish stopped granting wishes involving the gift or use of firearms or other weapons, including fishing tackle, designed to cause animal injury in 1996. This was largely due to the pressure from animal-sensitive donors, regardless of the child's wish. In response, three organizations were formed: Hunt of a Lifetime, which arranged hunting trips for terminally ill children; Catch-a-Dream, which was conceived by Mississippi outdoorsman Bruce Brady and formed by his loved ones following Brady's death from cancer to grant hunting experiences to ill children; and Life Hunts, founded by the Buckmasters American Deer Foundation.In the 1997 made-for-TV movie, A Child's Wish, Missy's wish is to go to the White House to meet the President who was responsible for signing the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 into law, which her father lobbied to pass after being fired for visiting Missy in the cancer ward. Make-A-Wish is not sure she will get to meet the President or be allowed to see the Oval Office, but in the end President Bill Clinton meets her to make her wish come true.
In the South Park episode, Kenny Dies, the Make-A-Wish Foundation is heavily satirized when they visit Kenny in the hospital and asks what his one wish is.
In the Family Guy episode "If I'm Dyin', I'm Lyin'", a parody of the Make-A-Wish Foundation called the Grant-a-Dream Foundation was presented.
In January 2008, the satirical news site The Onion produced a parody video claiming that the Make-a-Wish Foundation was bankrupted due to a child's wish for "infinite wishes". The video was apparently so convincing that some people believed it to be real, and it had to be debunked by the urban legends web site Snopes. The Mansion and The Chaser's War on Everything did similar sketches about the Make-a-Wish Foundation, the latter causing an unprecedented amount of controversy.
Four children were guest-stars on the show Cake Boss, in which Buddy Valastro helped four children make one-of-a-kind cakes before making a hot air balloon cake for a reception for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Make-a-Wish made headlines in 2013 with an elaborate Batman-themed wish, turning a young child into "Batkid". This wish was heavily publicized, and was chronicled in a documentary entitled Batkid Begins.