Purchase photos

Kansas charity proves wishes can come true

4/25/2012

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

Having a wish come true can't change a child's diagnosis, but it can give them something to look forward to.

"You can change the life of a child and family," Lara Jansonius, Phillipsburg, said of wish granting.

The Make-a-Wish Foundation granted her son Maleki's wish to attend the NCAA Division I Final Four when he was 17.

He was a fan and played basketball when he was younger and healthier, Jansonius said.

"It was an experience we would never have been able to provide," she said of the trip to Indianapolis.

As a social worker, she had heard about the organization but didn't know much about it until her son's wish was granted.

Pam Bieker, Ellis, agreed. She didn't know such organizations operated in the area until her son, Brandon, had his wish granted.

His volunteer wish grantor, Melanie Wheeler of Kinsley, arranged to have his car re-upholstered and painted. Now he's enrolled in collision repair at Northwest Kansas Technical College in Goodland.

"It was a major morale booster for him," Pam Bieker said. "It perked him up when he was at his lowest."

Wheeler has been a volunteer with the organization for 13 years and granted wishes in Hays, Smith Center and Phillipsburg.

"There's such a need out there," Wheeler said.

She got started as a volunteer after seeing an ad for the training.

"I have four healthy kids, so I went to the training," she said. "I loved it and have been doing it ever since."

So far she's granted 27 wishes and has no plans to stop.

"I'll definitely do it for the rest of my life, (and) I've recruited a couple of friends," Wheeler said.

To have a wish granted, a family must have a letter from a doctor saying the child is medically eligible.

The wish grantor then meets with the child and family.

Lisa Capps, director of development for Make-a-Wish Kansas, said 10 children in Ellis County have had wishes granted since 1985.

Earlier this month, there were 78 wishes waiting to be granted to Kansas children. Fifteen wishes came in during March, Capps said.

Make-a-Wish Day is Saturday.

"We use the day to create awareness and celebrate the founding," Capps said.