I hit a wall at the Nov. 13 Make-A-Wish Foundation holiday party for local families. I was at the event, which took place at Springfield High School, to arrange a photo session for this week’s special issue, which celebrates the “Holiday Wishes” CD.
Among the games and decorated tables, apart from the Santa Claus photo area and the DJ, was a wall that stretched the entire length of the gym. On that wall hung a list of all the local kids to whom Make-A-Wish has granted wishes to throughout the years.
There were too many kids’ names to count, too many columns of wishes to comprehend, too many young lives lost before their time.
I worked very hard to make the “Holiday Wishes” CD a success, to gather the talents of local musicians to raise money for the cause. The result of hundreds of hours of scores of people’s effort is a 25-track collection that retails for $9.99, every penny of which goes to the NW Ohio chapter of Make-A-Wish Foundation.
If I had stood before that wall before I started the project, I would have worked 10 times as hard, and I would have delivered a 10-CD set to raise 10 times as much money.
In 2010, the national Make-A-Wish Foundation granted almost 14,000 wishes to kids in the United States. The organization grants a wish about every 40 minutes. Some of the more common wishes include visits to places such as a Disney theme park or the Super Bowl. Some kids want to be a firefighter for a day, or a police officer. Some wishes are heartbreakingly simple; there are calls for a puppy, a computer, a chance to go to prom. Many of the kids want to meet an actor, athlete or other celebrity.
Can you imagine receiving that call — a child with limited days left has one major wish, to meet you? How could you ever turn that down?
I witnessed the power of Make-A-Wish firsthand while working on the “Holiday Wishes” CD, which goes on sale Nov. 25 at all area Panera Bread stores. Nearly every person I contacted immediately answered the call for time or talent. Some people, like engineer Christopher Stoll of Zeta Recording Studio, producer Mighty Wyte and attorney Larry Meyer, donated many more hours than I ever imagined they would need to when I first contacted them. More than 100 musicians and artists donated performances for the CD, and that doesn’t count the full Toledo Symphony Orchestra, which recorded an all-time great version of “Sleigh Ride” during a mid-fall concert in Findlay.
Many of the musicians continue to display a generosity and kindness that is humbling beyond words. Some of them will perform Dec. 1 at a benefit concert at The Blarney Bullpen. A few will appear to sing a few songs at a Dec. 3 concert at a Panera Bread location to be announced soon. Kerry Patrick Clark, who wrote and recorded the original song “(Looks Like It’s Going To Be) A Great Day” for the CD, will sing the National Anthem at the Nov. 29 Toledo City Council meeting, before a proclamation honors the local musicians on the CD and the charity it benefits. Clark is a partner with the CD manufacturer that produced the CD. When he received a commission check for referring the “Holiday Wishes” project, he immediately signed it over to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
I have also been amazed by the kindness of star Alyson Stoner and her mother, LuAnne Hodges, who donated recording studio time, autographed merchandise and even made time to go into a photography studio for the seasonal photos in this issue.
“Thank you” seems to pale in the face of such generosity. And that holds true for the organizations that stepped up to make sure that my unwieldy idea would not cost Make-A-Wish any money: Panera Bread is the distributor, Toledo Transmission and UAW Local 14 covered the manufacturing costs and Toledo Free Press and FOX Toledo donated promotions and commercials to the cause.
Now, it’s your turn.
If you appreciate local music, like holiday music and understand the spiritual and philanthropic role Make-A-Wish plays in our community, I hope that putting $10 on the Panera Bread counter for a 25-track CD that features contributions from Jamie Farr, Mannheim Steamroller, Crystal Bowersox and dozens more will seem like an easy choice and a great deal. You can also download the CD at www.cdbaby.com/cd/holidaywishes.
I remember standing before the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., for the first time, squinting at the rows of names and trying to keep in mind that every string of letters in that endless litany represented an individual person, with family and dreams and a path that was unfairly cut short and cut down.
Looking at the hundreds of local wishes granted to Make-A-Wish kids on that wall Nov. 13, I felt a similar sense of helplessness and a renewed sense of mission.
I took my sons Sean, 3, and Evan, 5, to one of the CD’s recording sessions. Sean, seeing the special treatment and attention the Make-A-Wish kids received, looked up at me and said, “Daddy, I want to be a Make-A-Wish kid.”
“No, son,” I said, momentarily paralyzed by the idea. “No, you don’t. But we’ll do everything we can to help the kids who are, OK?”
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.