FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Lindsey Pritzlaff, Director of Communications
609-371-9474 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Monroe Township, New Jersey (June 20, 2012) – Make-A-Wish® New Jersey has hosted an annual Gala for almost 20 years, but for the first time the organization welcomed guests into its new home for this special event, held at the Samuel & Josephine Plumeri Wishing Place on June 15, 2012.
“Please know how special it is to have you all here in our castle tonight to celebrate a most powerful mission and to raise funds to grant more wishes,” said Tom Weatherall, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish New Jersey, during his welcoming remarks.
Make-A-Wish New Jersey aims to bring the life-changing impact of a wish come true to more than 400 children in the Garden State this year.
“Here is the bad news, the reality. Medical studies inform us that on any given day in New Jersey two children are diagnosed with illnesses that would qualify them for a wish,” cited Mr. Weatherall. “The good news is that we are here for these families and their children.”
And on that magical evening, over 400 guests joined together at the one-of-a-kind wish-granting facility and raised over $500,000, which will help fund wishes granted to New Jersey children during this year’s summer season, one of the peak wish granting times of the year.
While supporting the future of wish granting, guests reflected on the organization’s roots and were honored by the presence of two of the co-founders of Make-A-Wish, Frank and Kitty Shankwitz. After a video chronicling the “First Wish” was played, Mr. Shankwitz shared with guests how his experience granting Chris Grecius’ wish in Arizona in 1980 led to the creation of the largest wish granting organization in the world.
“It all started with an idea to grant one little boy’s wish almost 33 years ago,” said Mr. Shankwitz. “To be here tonight and see how that one idea has grown because of all of you – staff, volunteers, and donors – is my ultimate wish come true.”
Though each have a unique story, the dozens of wish families in attendance all echoed the life-changing impact of a wish come true that Mr. Shankwitz described. Nicolas, 17, who lives with Duchenne muscular dystrophy and is confined to a wheelchair, described how the granting of his wish for a wheelchair-accessible sidecar for his father’s motorcycle has allowed his family to now log many miles and make memories on the open road.
“Not only do I really enjoy riding in the sidecar, but I love sharing my dad’s passion for riding,” shared Nicolas. “And when mom joins us, it makes it even better.
“We are now known in our neighborhood as the sidecar family,” Nicolas added.
The evening also provided an opportunity to recognize distinguished members from the community who have played instrumental roles in advancing the Make-A-Wish mission.
During this year’s award ceremony the New Jersey chapter honored Ernest W. Feist, president of Feist Engineering, Inc., as Humanitarian of the Year and Thomas J. McEvoy, co-founder and managing partner of DMC Wealth Advisors, LLC, was recognized with the Kathleen H. Murray Award for Distinguished Board Service.
“I am grateful and humbled by this wonderful honor,” said Mr. McEvoy. “My parents always emphasized service to others and always said that you’ll have everything you want in life if you help others get what they need.”
“It is an honor to be in the same room with two of the co-founders of Make-A-Wish,” added Mr. Feist. “Kitty and Frank’s story is so inspiring to me and it will continue to inspire me to do more and more for Make-A-Wish.”
Inside the castle, as they danced and enjoyed a bountiful reception, guests were enveloped by the magic that awaits each wish child who will visit. As guests bid on live and silent auction items, stars on a giant screen lit up, signifying the number of wishes that will be funded by the event’s proceeds.
By the end of the evening, 50 wishes, in the form of beaming stars, shined as bright as the firework grand finale.
“After tonight, as you get on with your weekend plans, you may forget what was said and what took place,” said Mr. Weatherall. “But make no mistake – the families you help in the days and weeks to come will never forget you, or the wish experience you helped fund.”
About Make-A-Wish® New Jersey
Make-A-Wish grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy. According to a 2011 study of wish impact, most health professionals surveyed say a wish come true can affect their health outcomes. Kids say wishes give them renewed strength to fight their illness, and their parents say these experiences strengthen the entire family. Based in Phoenix, Make-A-Wish is one of the world’s leading children’s charities, serving children in every community in the United States, its territories and in 47 countries on five continents. Make-A-Wish New Jersey was founded in 1983. Serving children in every municipality in the Garden State, Make-A-Wish New Jersey has granted more than 7,200 wishes since its inception. For more information about Make-A-Wish New Jersey, call 800-252-WISH or visit www.nj.wish.org and discover how you can share the power of a wish® .