By Katie Smythe
alexandrianews.org

Lesli Creedon (Photo: Katie Smythe)

Lesli Creedon, a long-time Alexandria resident, has been on both the giving and receiving end of Make-A-Wish®. She became President and CEO of Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic in February 2018, so she gets to witness the miracles of wishes granted to deserving children in our area. But she also experienced the gift of a Wish trip for her son, Jack, in July 2018.

“Unless you have experienced it yourself, you can't really comprehend the sheer joy and transformational power a wish truly has,” Creedon wrote afterwards to the Make-A-Wish Board.

Research shows when children diagnosed with a critical illness are granted their one true wish, it gives them renewed strength and energy to keep fighting. Their families and entire communities come together. The impact from just one wish has the power to transform the lives of everyone involved.

“Jack was diagnosed with leukemia almost three years ago,” Creedon explained. “On day two of his hospitalization, our doctor told us that he qualified for a wish. The doctor looked around Jack’s room, which was decorated with cards and letters and posters all of which were about animals, and suggested that he wish to be the director of a zoo for a day, and earnest, not smart-aleck Jack said, ‘Why would I do that? I do that all the time!’ (Jack had demonstrated his interest and love of animals from a very early age, and Lesli used to work in fundraising for the Smithsonian/National Zoo.)

“When we got home from the hospital and were preparing for our visit from the wish granting volunteers, he went to his nightstand and pulled out an old dog eared copy of National Geographic Traveler magazine that he had saved for a few years. In it was a story on the Maldives, with pictures of huts over water, dolphins, and sea turtles. It was clear right away that this is where he wished to go!,” Creedon said.

Jack’s treatment was a long and difficult process, in which the family lived apart during much of the time. His sister, Catherine, missed her playmate and best buddy. After a stem cell transplant in December 2016, Jack endured a lengthy recovery period when his immune system was particularly vulnerable. His Wish trip had to be put on hold for a few years until he was healthy enough.

Jack's Wish Trip (courtesy photo)

“Through it all, we dreamed of our Maldives trip and the days we would spend together in the Indian Ocean,” said Creedon. “Every inch of the experience was tailored to Jack—our over-water hut, our lunch at the underwater restaurant, and our private island excursion. We also learned to snorkel. One of the many, many highlights was seeing the sea turtles!

“When you live day-to-day for almost three years in the childhood cancer bubble, you somehow adjust to a new normal. You don’t realize the full extent of non-medical impacts that illness has on your child and your family. And even when the treatment is complete, you don’t just snap back to your old life.

“For our family, the wish represents the capstone to Jack’s journey: both an end and a new beginning. It inspired such a positive attitude and outlook in him,” Creedon said.

Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic, which serves the District of Columbia, Northern Virginia and Maryland, granted just over 450 wishes last year. There are five types of wishes, divided into categories of: to have, to go, to be, to meet, and to give. About 500 volunteers are involved in making the wishes come true – from helping the child envision the wish to putting the package together. Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic expects to grant its 10,000th wish in the spring of 2019.

“For every child that gets a wish, there is another child waiting,” Creedon said.

There are various ways to help Make-A-Wish, including fundraising events, school programs (kids for wish kids), corporate sponsors, community partners that might ‘adopt a wish’, donations of airline miles and hotel points, and networks of volunteers. Make-A-Wish provides a toolkit for such efforts. For ways to help, go to: http://midatlantic.wish.org/ways-to-help.