At Make-A-Wish a portion of our operating budget is derived from special events. Special events are important for many reasons. Two of which are that they allow us to share our mission with more people and they generate revenue which allows us to grant more wishes.
This month, our blog focuses on a longstanding and very successful event that benefits Make-A-Wish. Our guest blogger, Kelly Braun, explains the “why” behind the Dickinson Noon Lions Benefit and why this event continues to grow and thrive.
Over the years many things have changed regarding our benefit. For me personally, the biggest change was becoming a volunteer wish granter. I have been blessed to be a part of numerous wishes, to be able to see the smiles on children’s faces and to know that I helped them with their wish. But, the biggest blessing is how much I have been affected by the wish children and families. A wish impacts and benefits more than just the wish child and their family.
Our benefit has grown tremendously since it began. We had to move from the Dickinson Eagles Club to the Dickinson Hockey Arena because our attendance was above the fire code for the Eagles Club. We’ve added inflatables, face painting and photos booths since our move. In the past two years alone, our net donation to Make-A-Wish North Dakota has been over $150,000 each year!
But, the point of this blog is to focus on why we hold this benefit. The obvious reason is to raise money to grant wishes. Although this is the biggest reason why, there are many more. This event has become one of Dickinson’s biggest community events. We invite local wish children and their families to the event with over 20 attending this past year. Although many of these children have had their wishes already granted, the evening allows those children to be extra special. You can see it in their faces that they are invincible once again, they feel like the event is held just for them, that they are celebrities. And on this day, they are correct. Many times our live auction items, like powered cars and rideable toy horses, are purchased and given to a wish child. The children are excited and the donor walks away with a feeling that is indescribable.
Another reason that we hold the event is for awareness. Even though our Lions Club is not associated with Make-A-Wish, we know that there are children that may be eligible for a wish and need to be referred. Many times we get referrals at the benefit, but we also have many PSA’s and live broadcasts promoting the event and promoting what Make-A-Wish provides to the families and how it benefits the child, which leads to referrals. Our hope is that no child will need a wish, but the reality is not all eligible children are getting referred. The benefit helps us reach some of those children.
This event is really about children – wish kids and non-wish kids alike. We have focused on making this a family friendly event. Our expansive silent auction is about 50% children’s items, the live auction is littered with children’s items and we have a bucket raffle where you buy tickets to be entered into a drawing for a variety of prizes. This allows everyone to have a chance to win an item.
To keep this a family event, we have kept our prices reasonable. Once inside the event center, the inflatables, photo booth and face painting is free. Many times we hear from the parents that they love to come to our event because they can bring their children so they don’t need to pay for a sitter and then allow the kids to spend the “sitter” money on auction items.
We try to make little changes each year so that we can continue to improve the event and keep it fresh year after year. But, some things never change. What never changes is the need for dollars to fund wishes, the fact that the Make-A-Wish organization and our event are both child focused and the generosity of everyone who attends. That generosity never ceases to amaze me. However, the single biggest thing that never changes is the feeling of making a child’s wish come true and the emotions that come with that.
At the end of the event the children go home with items and memories of a glorious night, the public walks out with a smile and often some dried tears from watching a wish child receive a gift from a stranger or being a part of finding out that the child’s wish is coming true, auction winners walk away knowing that they helped and they feel blessed to be able to, or they have the smiles, thanks and hugs from a wish child that they just met that night or maybe from years before and the volunteers walk out feeling physically and mentally drained, yet spiritually uplifted knowing that another benefit is complete, another year in the books and we have succeeded once again.
Each year has its memorable moments. One year wish child Levi wiped out our auctioneer during the live auction with a peddle tractor. Another year wish child Matthew magically showed up at the event when he was supposed to still be in Rochester fighting leukemia…again. Then there was the year that wish child Theron found out that his wish to have his grandpa’s truck restored was coming true and his award winning smile was beaming from ear to ear. Another year, the crowd found out that on wish child Sage’s 3rd birthday she was rushed from Bowman to Bismarck and instead of cake and ice cream she got needle pokes and prods only to find out that she has leukemia. Looking out into the crowd, I do not believe there was a dry eye in the place. It is these moments, these memories that drive us. It is these children and the children that we have not met yet that makes six months of planning and hard work worth it. It’s knowing that we have helped a child survive. And yes, I mean survive.
I once spoke with our local newspaper reporter and she started telling me about her Make-A-Wish moment and I realized just how powerful a wish really is. She told me that she interviewed Matthew Jahner for the benefit the year before and during the interview Matthew told her that Make-A-Wish saved his life. Matthew was in a dark place when Make-A-Wish was introduced to him and it was at that time that he began to focus on the positives instead of the negative of the treatments.
So at the end of the night, as I lay my head on the pillow, I find a sense of fulfillment. Of course, my mind races about next year’s event and everything we can do to make it even more successful!
Be sure to save the date of March 18, 2017 for the next benefit. Join in the fun first hand to see what exciting surprises and memorable moments are yet to come!