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Gala 2019 Highlights

A Big Thank You!

Our annual gala was held at the Samuel & Josephine Plumeri Wishing Place on Thursday, June 13th and raised over $1 million to support upcoming wishes!
We thank those who supported our gala—especially our wish children and their families—for making this a magical and memorable evening.
We also thank our wonderful honorees,
Goya Foods
Peter Unanue
Executive Vice President
Corporation of the Year

Rebecca A. Burke
Office Managing Partner/New Jersey
Ernst & Young, LLP
Kathleen H. Murray Award

Monica Ann Hilliard
Bloomberg Philanthropies
Kathleen H. Murry Award

For their role in making this night one of the most special nights of our year.
The night was filled with powerful mission moments, surprising not one, but four New Jersey children with the granting of their wishes. When villains attempted to sabotage the Gala and ran off with the honorees’ awards, 8-year-old Tyler was called upon to help save the evening. Tyler, whose wish was to become the first ever Orange Ranger, was officially inducted into the Power Rangers team through a special video message from the Beast Morpher Rangers.

He was given his own officially licensed Orange Ranger suit and mask from Hasbro and Party City, and gave chase to the thieves. After a battle of good vs. evil with the villains outside the Wishing Place, it was reported live to Gala attendees by New Jersey’s own Bill Spadea of Chasing News and New Jersey 101.5 that Tyler had apprehended the thieves, returned the awards, and turned the villains over to the Monroe Township Police Department. He was greeted with cheers from the crowd as the hero of the night, and his wish was completed with a special thank you video message from his favorite actor and Power Ranger, Jason David Frank – a moment Tyler will surely never forget.

Among other surprises were the announcements of Michael’s wish to go to the French Alps to learn to cook, and Bridget’s wish to go to London – both Michael and Bridget learned, while surrounded by family, that they will depart on the trip of a lifetime in just two weeks. The fourth and final wish to be granted was for 11-year-old Zakhyrah, whose wish is to go to the Walt Disney World Resort. After a heartfelt speech given by wish alumna Shirley Sly, whose wish to have a computer was granted in 2002, the audience learned that Shirley and Zakhyrah were mother and daughter. Shirley surprised her daughter with the news that they were leaving for "The Most Magical Place On Earth" in just six days.

The evening also recognized three pillars in the community for their ongoing support of Make-A-Wish and other humanitarian efforts throughout New Jersey and around the globe. Rebecca A. Burke, Office Managing Partner / New Jersey, Ernst & Young LLP and Monica Ann Hilliard of Bloomberg Philanthropies were presented with the Kathleen H. Murray Award. Goya Foods, Inc. was honored with the Corporation of the Year Award, recognizing extraordinary charitable efforts and an exceeding commitment to community. Peter Unanue, Executive Vice President of Goya Foods, Inc., accepted the award on the company’s behalf.

Mr. Unanue was introduced by John Crowley, Chairman of the Board & CEO of Amicus Therapeutics, former chairman of the board for Make-A-Wish America, and the inspiration for the major motion picture Extraordinary Measures. His daughter Megan Crowley, diagnosed with Pompe Disease, whose wish was granted in 2001 to go to the Walt Disney World Resort, provided exciting updates to her life since she last addressed the Gala crowd with an inspiring speech last June. Megan has continued to defy the odds and, just weeks ago, graduated from the University of Notre Dame. In the fall, she will continue her education and pursue a master’s degree in Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Megan and her family have continued to be leaders in the Make-A-Wish community, and played an integral part in the building of the Wishing Place, as well as countless other initiatives. Megan credited her life-long relationship with Make-A-Wish as one of the inspirations behind her passion for a career with a non-profit organization, and was recently featured in the Wall Street Journal highlighting her astounding accomplishments.

The evening’s excitement concluded with the “Summer of Wishes” – a time when guests are given the opportunity to directly support the wish-granting fund for the chapter. It was also announced on Thursday evening that an anonymous donor would make a significant match to the fund, and culminated with a substantial gift from Francis X. Bolte, Make-A-Wish New Jersey Board Chair, and his family. The evening’s success will help to grant well over 100 wishes in the weeks and months ahead.

Thank you to our numerous sponsors who helped to make the gala a tremendous success!

To see more photos from the event, please click here!
  • MAWNJ President & CEO Tom Weatherall, Corporate Controller of Goya Foods, Inc. Tony Diaz, CPA, Executive Vice President of Goya Foods, Inc. Peter Unanue and wife Kimberly

  • John Crowley, Chairman of the Board & CEO of Amicus Therapeutics, Chairman of the Board for Make-A-Wish America 2014-2016 and Wish Dad, with his daughter Megan Crowley

  • Monica Ann Hilliard, Bloomberg Philanthropies, recipient of the Kathleen H. Murray Award, with Director of Wish Granting for Make-A-Wish New Jersey Victoria Bollhardt

  • Rebecca A. Burke, Office Managing Partner New Jersey, Ernst & Young LLP, recipient of the Kathleen H. Murray Award, Make-A-Wish New Jersey Board Chair Francis X. Bolte

  • Peter Unanue, Executive Vice President of Goya Foods, Inc., accepts the Corporation of the Year Award on the company’s behalf

  • Michael, 14, is surprised when it is revealed that his wish to go to the French Alps to learn to cook is coming true

  • Shirley, who was granted a wish in 2002, reveals to her daughter, 11-year-old Zakhyrah, that her wish to go to Walt Disney World Resort has been granted

  • Wish child alumna Megan Crowley announces that Bridget's wish to go to London has been granted

  • Wish kid Bridget, 10, reacts to the surprise that her wish to go to London is coming true

  • 8-year-old Tyler's wish to become the first ever Orange Power Ranger comes true

  • 8-year-old Tyler, the first ever Orange Power Ranger, saves the Gala and catches the burglers who stole the evening's awards

Our annual Gala is a night to celebrate our seemingly simple but oh-so-powerful mission, and also a night to invite support to continue towards our vision of reaching every eligible child. Studies inform us that every day, two families in New Jersey go home with the devastating news that their child has been diagnosed with a critical illness. With the support of our mission shown here tonight by our honorees, our sponsors, our donors, and our friends throughout New Jersey, it gives us the confidence that when we ask a child that powerful question, ‘If you could have one wish, what would it be?,’ upon the child’s answer, our response will be this: ‘Your wish shall be granted.’ ”

— Tom Weatherall, President & CEO of Make-A-Wish New Jersey

Make-A-Wish® New Jersey
Samuel & Josephine Plumeri Wishing Place
1384 Perrineville Road
Monroe Township, NJ 08831
(609) 371-9474
Toll Free (800) 252-9474