ROCHESTER — It was the best year yet for the Make-A-Wish Gala at the Locust Hill Country Club on April 1.
The organization raised over $186,000 to go towards making 20 local wish children’s wishes come true.
Wish Recipient Isaiah was the honored guest this year, and he talked about his ongoing friendship with actress Halle Berry. Julie and Joel Harper were the “Wish Makers of The Year.” Make-A-Wish Regional Director Mary Jones said this was the best year for them. She loved hearing Isaiah’s touching story about how his famous friend changed his life with one act of kindness.
“He had watched Catwoman, and got his wish to meet Halle Berry 13 years ago,” she said. “He has an incredibly painful condition that will last through his lifetime. He has been in and out of hospitals his whole life. Halle was touched by the whole family. She wanted Isaiah to keep in contact with her. He didn’t have a computer, so when he got home there was a computer and printer waiting for them. Halle kept in touch with him through email.”
Isaiah took this gift and taught himself coding. He got a full scholarship to the University of Columbia, and graduated a couple years ago.
Jones said that his story is truly inspiring.
The Harper’s are wish grant volunteers. Jones said that they helped do whatever it takes to keep the organization running.
There were 76 wishes granted in the Greater Rochester area in 2016 for children who have critical illnesses.
Jones said the best part about being in this organization is hearing about how the wishes impact the children’s lives.
“Talking to the kids after the wish is granted, and seeing how much it means to them is the best part,” she said. “It gives the child something positive from a sad situation. The tough reality of this is that these children are all in bad condition. If we can help them during these tough times, and bring them something good that is what we celebrate.”
In the decision process to decide who will be the wish recipient guest speaker the team looks at all the wishes that have made a huge impact.
“Towards the end of the year we look at the wishes that have been granted recently,” Jones said. “We look at super unique wishes, and kids who have dynamic personalities.”
Isaiah shared his testimonial to the lasting impact of his wish to meet Catwoman, who at the time was Halle Berry. Isaiah was diagnosed with sickle cell disease, and along with his brother, Elijah, continues his fight against this painful diagnosis. His experience took place more than a decade ago, and Make-A-Wish has been the driving force behind his success at Columbia University.
“On the airplane to Los Angeles we were so anxious. There were oxygen masks for my brother and me at our seats, because the high altitude is known to cause health complications for people with sickle cell disease,” he said. “After a few days into our stay at the hotel near Santa Monica Beach the day had arrived. It was magnificent. I was stunned by how beautiful Halle was, and the kindness in her spirit. In those moments i felt love, peace, and grace.”
“To escape the conditions of my health and life for a few minutes, and to live in a moment of wonder. To touch, hug, and smile with Catwoman; someone who had inspired my child-like imagination. She helped me imagine aay moments of pain and illness, of medications and hospitals, it was like living again. My wish was coming true,” Isaiah continued. “I don’t take life for granted, because I don’t have to imagine what life is like for a child battling a chronic condition that jeopardizes his or her life. Having lived such a life has inspired a deep desire in me to practice medicine one day.”
For more information on Make-A-Wish you can visit the website at http://wny.wish.org