Holiday Wishes: CD to benefit Make-A-WishWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Eric Slough could talk for hours about the power of a single wish.
Slough, the executive director of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Ohio, Kentucky & Indiana, Northwest Ohio Regional Office, said he feels honored to be a part of granting wishes for children with life-threatening conditions — but sometimes the wishes grow beyond even what his organization plans.
One of Slough’s favorite stories is about an area teenager who was able to visit Ohio Stadium last fall to see his beloved Ohio State Buckeyes play. The wish had been postponed because of health issues and, as his condition deteriorated, had become a rush wish, organized during the course of a few days to make sure he made it to a game.
“After the wish, someone said, ‘Did you see what the OSU marching band did?’” Slough said. “We said, ‘What are you talking about? We didn’t schedule anything with the band.’”
Slough was directed to YouTube, where he watched a video of the band in full dress uniform, spelling the teen’s name on the field at Ohio Stadium.
“My jaw was hanging open,” Slough said. “I would like to claim that we did that. We didn’t. If you know anything about OSU football and the band, it’s a big deal. They’re celebrity status. It was somehow coordinated in the five-day span to be able to spell out this kid’s name. Talk about sharing the power of a wish. You’ve got 250 college kids who never met him, but understood what it meant to this family. It just shows how a wish can touch people.”
Although the teen died not long after, his family remains grateful for the gesture. The video of the marching band was played at his funeral, Slough said.
“I have story upon story upon story like that that could fill pages,” Slough said. “I’m very fortunate. I get the opportunity about five times a day to get the hair on the back of my neck to stand up as I see the wishes and the families and how they are affected. Putting a smile on a kid’s face is what drives me and gets me out of bed every day.”
Being able to grant more wishes is the reason Slough is excited about “Holiday Wishes,” a benefit CD project organized by Toledo Free Press Editor in Chief Michael S. Miller and sponsored by General Motors Co. and Panera Bread.
All proceeds from the CD, which features local and national artists with Toledo connections, will benefit Make-A-Wish Foundation, Northwest Ohio Region, to help grant wishes for local children. Contributors to the 25-track CD include Jamie Farr, Mannheim Steamroller, Pat Dailey, Kerry Patrick Clark, Crystal Bowersox, ReediusMaximus, Alyson Stoner and the Toledo Symphony Orchestra.
“If we sell every CD we printed, we’re going to grant at least three to four wishes out of this project, which is huge,” Slough said.
CDs will be sold for $9.99 at area Panera Bread locations starting Nov. 25. Digital downloads will be available at CDBaby, Amazon and iTunes.
The official CD release party and concert is set for Dec. 1 at The Blarney Bullpen, 601 Monroe St. Tickets are $5 for adults, children 12 and younger are free.
Everything from the recording to the mixing to the artwork was done locally, Slough said.
“From concept to completion, it’s just been a fun project,” Slough said. “Our thank-you note list is about as thick as Santa’s list.”
Slough said the dedication to the project has been incredible.
“This is a Toledo-born-and-bred project to help Northwest Ohio,” Slough said. “You’ll hear a lot of familiar voices, people you see every day, who stepped up to help us. The quality of music is spectacular. It shows the talent we have here in Northwest Ohio. It’s cool to see how charity can bring so many people together for a really cool cause.”
The Make-A-Wish Foundation grants wishes for children ages 2 ½ to 18 who have a medically life-threatening condition that is progressive, degenerative or malignant.
“The biggest misconception is that all our kids are terminal,” Slough said. “All our kids are very sick and we do lose kids on an annual basis, but some do go on, their health improves and they do great things. I was at an event once and this 20-something college kid pulls his collar down and showed me the scar where his chemo port had been and said, ‘I had a wish when I was 7 years old and I can’t tell you what it means to me.’”
Many children are referred to Make-A-Wish by doctors or social workers while others come through family inquiries. Doctors decide whether a child’s condition qualifies for a wish and whether the child is healthy enough to experience their wish.
“The only limitations are the child’s health and imagination,” Slough said. “We’ll try to make it happen.”
When a wish is granted, the whole family is involved, Slough said.
“If you’re going to the hospital three or four days a week, you’re usually taking your kids along with you so it often affects the lives of brothers and sisters just as much as the child that is ill,” Slough said. “We know how much stress it puts on the immediate family, so everyone is involved.”
The Northwest Ohio Region covers 21 counties. Recent wishes granted include trips to Disney World, a trip to London to walk in the footsteps of The Beatles, meeting celebrities like Peyton Manning and Paula Deen, building a playhouse, getting a puppy and going on a shopping spree.
“From the time we pick you up to the time we drop you off, you don’t want for anything,” Slough said. “We take care of all travel arrangements, food, expenses, luggage. It’s your time to focus on your child, a chance to regroup as a family, to set aside doctors, prods, pokes, strangers coming into your room in the middle of the night. We give the gift of time. Just time to be a kid, time to be a family again.”
Slough said Make-A-Wish fits a niche as an organization that helps today’s kids today.
“There’s a lot of research organizations, but maybe that research isn’t going to touch that kid that’s in the hospital today. It helps tomorrow’s kids, but we step in and are able to put a smile on a kid’s face today,” Slough said. “At the end of the day, are we curing cancer? No, but we’ve done studies asking health care professionals and families, ‘What does a wish mean to kids and families?’ and a lot of times it’s ranked right up there with medicine. Just having that wish on the horizon really helps get them to that next step, helps them fight a little bit harder. One more poke in the arm today, but you know what? That wish is out there. It’s almost like medicine.”
The Northwest Ohio chapter grants about 80 wishes a year, Slough said.
“For us, there’s never an off-season. Our primary functions are to grant wishes and do the fundraising attached to those wishes,” Slough said. “Eighty wishes a year is a lot. We can take more referrals, but it comes down to funding.”
The average cost of a wish is $6,000, Slough said. Wishes are paid for by donations and donations in kind, including gifted airline miles.
“Airline miles are golden for us,” Slough said. “That’s a humungous expense for us.”
For more information, visit www.makeawishohio.org.