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Wishing Well Blog

Kids Can Make a Difference

Development Coordinator Andrea Ballas accepts donation from Zack and his mom
Kids can make a difference – a phrase I first heard in elementary school, but, I admit, did not have much meaning for me. I always thought of it as something teachers told students so that they would help keep the playground clean after recess. This changed on August 1, 2013, when I started my first day of work at Make-A-Wish®. My new job entitled me to oversee our Kids for Wish Kids® fundraising program geared toward students under 18 years old. After 20 minutes of trying to organize my new desk, our staff was directed to assemble in the board room and greet a kid who is a celebrity in our office – Zachary Abel.

All of my co-workers greeted Zack and his family with huge smiles and plenty of hugs. Zack had his wish granted for his very own dinosaur in 2005 when he was only six years old. Once everyone was settled in the board room, Zack told us all about his event, Make A Move for Make-A-Wish. Zack had just completed his second year organizing this event, a 5-mile bike ride, run and walk in North Park. I was impressed solely by the fact that a 13-year-old spent so much time organizing a fundraiser. Then, Zack turned around his big check to reveal a $39,072.26 donation to help make other kids' wishes come true. In my very first hour at Make-A-Wish, Zack proved to me that kids truly can make a difference.

After Zack’s check presentation, I met with him since I would be assisting him with next year’s Make A Move. Just a few days after completing his second event, Zack was already eager to begin planning for next year. Zack’s 3rd annual Make A Move for Make-A-Wish took place on July 27, 2014. In preparation for his next event, Zack spent extra hours after school and on weekends designing T-shirts, visiting businesses for prize donations, acquiring sponsorships and spreading awareness about Make-A-Wish. This summer, Zack put all of his effort toward making this years’ event his greatest to date – and believe me, it was. Zack received more sponsorships, more registrations and more donations than the two previous years. When addressing the participants and the media at his event, Zack spoke proudly about how far he’s come and his accomplishments. Zack and family present donation at Make-A-Wish officeAnd then came the day for Zack’s check presentation in our Make-A-Wish office. A year after my first day as an employee, here I was, standing next to Zack as he turned around his check once again and revealed an even greater total - $54,729.02. I’d be lying to say that I was the only one in our office who instantly got goosebumps and felt tears forming in my eyes. 

Zack is an inspiration to us all -- he truly is dedicated to our mission and genuinely wants to help our organization grow. From a six-year-old boy with a rare form of cancer, to a now cancer-free 14 year old, Zack has grown in front of our eyes. In his three years of fundraising, Zack has raised more than $100,000 for Make-A-Wish. To our organization, Zack is a remarkable champion and a member of our family. To me, Zack is a constant reminder that kids can make a difference. On my very first day at Make-A-Wish, Zack proved to me that anyone, no matter their age, can help make wishes come true. From that day forward, schools, students and children of all ages have been confirming that belief for me. From students who donate their tooth fairy money, or schools who organize dodgeball tournament or benefit concerts, to kids who will give up their birthday gifts and, instead, ask for donations to Make-A-Wish, it is always encouraging and heartwarming to see the compassion that kids have. Working with our Kids for Wish Kids program is the most rewarding job I’ve ever had. Going into my second year at Make-A-Wish, I am eager and excited to see just how many more students will astonish me this year.

To learn more about how you can help make wishes come true through our Kids for Wish Kids program, click here or call 800-676-9474.

About this Blog

This blog brings Make-A-Wish Greater Pennsylvania and West Virginia to you -- sharing first-person stories of the Make-A-Wish experience and the impact of a wish from the perspectives of wish families, volunteers and staff. This blog highlights wishes come true and the special people in Pennsylvania and West Virginia that help create life-changing experiences for every eligible child.

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Make-A-Wish® Greater Pennsylvania and West Virginia, Inc.
The Gulf Tower
707 Grant Street, 37th Floor
Pittsburgh, PA 15219-1938
(412) 471-9474
Toll Free (800) 676-9474
Make-A-Wish® Greater Pennsylvania and West Virginia, Southern West Virginia Office
888 Oakwood Rd
Oakwood Center, Suite 330
Charleston, WV 25314
(304) 342-9474
Toll Free (800) 664-9474
Make-A-Wish® Greater Pennsylvania and West Virginia, Northern West Virginia Office
913 Canyon Road
Morgantown, WV 26508
(304) 292-5600
Toll Free (888) 808-9474