The following story is shared through highlights from an Asbury Park Press article on wish kid Klara’s wish to have a purple Action Trackchair, the 10,000th wish granted by Make-A-Wish New Jersey. It was written by Jerry Carino. Follow him on Twitter on @NJHoopsHaven.
It’s a simple thing that most of us take for granted: the ability to hike through the woods.
For 8-year-old Klara Pederson, who uses a wheelchair due to a rare muscle disease, it was just about impossible.
With 100 well-wishers cheering at the castle that serves as its headquarters, Make-A-Wish Foundation of New Jersey presented Klara with an Action Trackchair Wednesday. The specialized all-terrain wheelchair “breaks down so many boundaries,” her father Darren Pederson said.
The heartwarming scene has replayed over and over throughout Make-A-Wish’s 35 years of operation in the Garden State. But Wednesday’s presentation was extra special: It marked the 10,000th wish granted by this chapter.
“How grateful are we in New Jersey to be one of the leading Make-a-Wish chapters because of the generosity of this fantastic New Jersey community?” said longtime president and CEO Tom Weatherall, who lives in Brielle. “The one thing that gets me and our staff up every morning, one foot already on the floor, is to keep a streak going that’s been going on in New Jersey for 35 years – we’ve never said no to a child because of lack of funds.”
According to foundation officials, the average cost of wish in New Jersey is roughly $10,000. The base model of the Action Trackchair retails in that neighborhood. For a Klara Pederson, whose family lives on a wildlife preservation in Mantua, Gloucester County, it will open a new horizon.
“Klara has been very dependent on us for mobility in the outdoors,” Darren Pederson said. "So really now she can be a typical 8-year-old kid playing outdoors, fishing, camping, hiking.”
Make-A-Wish New Jersey granted 530 wishes in the most recent fiscal year. Children who qualify for a wish are between the ages of 2½ and 18, and have been diagnosed with a critical illnesses. They are not necessarily terminal.
Most of their wishes are travel-related, but a good amount are practical like Klara’s.
“Disney is one of our dearest partners; that represents about 45 percent of our wishes,” Weatherall said. “So a wish like this helps educate the public that we’re more than Disney, and we’re more than cancer, too.”
It’s worth noting that among the crowd of well-wishers at Wednesday’s presentation were six “Make-A-Wish families” – previous beneficiaries. That added an extra wrinkle to the milestone moment. Klara’s parents learned a few weeks back that they would be No. 10,000, but that was revealed to their awe-struck daughter Wednesday. Five giant balloons spelling out the number reinforced the message.
"The whole thing was unbelievable enough,” Darren Pederson said, “but then to be that special wish, it makes it that much better.”