I have been with Make-A-Wish for a short time, since the end of September, and in granting Austin’s wish, I truly witnessed the power of a wish for the first time in person. Austin found a Blue Pit Bull puppy online, Layla, who he instantly fell in love with (who would also fall instantly in love with Austin). Layla’s breeder was located on the opposite side of the state from our office in Erie, in Berks County, but that proved to be no problem because of the generosity of our volunteers across the state. A volunteer, who works with the Pottsville office of Make-A-Wish, instantly volunteered to meet Austin’s parents when they met his puppy for the first time, as well as picking up the puppy and meeting me in State College, PA, for the delivery of the puppy.
Over the past few weeks, the outpouring of help and support from our volunteers, the student-athletes and staff at Edinboro University, the veterinary clinic in Warren, PA, (Austin’s hometown) who donated a year’s worth of vet services for Layla, the breeders, and, of course, the Make-A-Wish staff has been overwhelming. I have truly been inspired by the bounty of giving that has surrounded this wish, but nothing could prepare me for the transformation I witnessed last night.
When Austin and his family arrived at the game, he was not feeling well at all and was experiencing a lot of pain due to nerve damage from his amputation. The boy that Make-A-Wish Senior Director Jan Stork and I met was very quiet, with his head down, and seemed like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. He clearly would have much rather been at home on a couch than at the basketball game. When he was brought out to center court at halftime of the game, his reticence was apparent, but it slowly began to fade as he was presented with a string of gifts to help him care for his new puppy, although he told Jan later, “I kept thinking…there better be a puppy at the end of this!” And, of course, the final gift was his puppy, Layla – the beautiful, sweet, gentle puppy he had fallen in love with weeks earlier, but thought was lost to him. The smile on his face was truly heartwarming and the tears of joy in his mom’s eyes brought tears to my own.
The boy that walked out of that building was an entirely different boy than the one who walked in – he was smiling, he was looking around the room at everyone, he was laughing. The gift of his new best friend, who instantly bonded to him, had provided him with what he needed to help him in his recovery. And it was then that I truly felt and understood the power of a wish.