“I wish to have a winter wonderland at home”.
One of our two chosen charity partners for 2022 is Make-a-Wish UK. Please take a moment to read the case study below, telling the inspiring, heartwarming and heartbreaking story of Ellie, 17, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma when she was just 15. The team at Make-a-Wish worked with Ellie’s family and other organisations to surprise Ellie by granting her wish and turning her house into a festive wonderland.
Ellie’s wish is one of the thousands that Make-a-Wish have been able to grant. Today is “World Wish Day”, to highlight the incredible work that they do to make such an impact on people’s lives.
At Next Phase we are passionate about raising money and awareness for such amazing causes. It’s why we took part in our 24-hour bike ride earlier this month, and why we have all kinds of other team and personal events planned throughout the year.
You have the power to light up the darkness for critically ill children in your local community. The Covid pandemic has seen a 40% reduction in Make-a-Wish’s income, with thousands of wishes being put on hold.
Please take the time to read this case study (taken from a Make-a-Wish pdf to help promote World Wish Day 2022), look at the great work that Make-a-Wish UK do across the country, and think creatively about some things that you and your team can do to help!
Case Study from Make-a-Wish UK (read more at www.make-a-wish.org.uk):
Ellie’s mum Maria described her as a “gentle soul” who was quiet, strong, artistic and loved school. She used an AV1 robot to attend lessons when she was shielding from coronavirus or too poorly to travel.
Ellie, 17, was told she had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a rare cancer of the lymphatic system, when she was just 15. Her symptoms started with a simple cough that lingered and itchy skin. Then she found a lump in her armpit. Tests show it was stage 4b so treatment began immediately.
“Her diagnosis came as a shock, but we thought she would have chemotherapy for a few months and then get better,” said Maria.
But three rounds of chemotherapy and immunotherapy failed to destroy the cancerous cells, so Ellie had radiotherapy to target her chest where they remained. The next step was a stem cell transplant which meant a spell in isolation – away from all risks of infection – and coping with unpleasant side-effects, but brave Ellie wanted to help other young people too.
“It’s been important for Ellie that we give back because she was always amazed at how lovely hospital staff were. So last Christmas we managed to do some fundraising and raised enough money so that several families could go on a black cab ride to see the Christmas lights in the West End.”
Ellie also fundraised so that other children could access an audio-visual robot.
Meanwhile, the stubborn cluster of cancer cells in Ellie’s chest remained so she stopped receiving treatment in December 2021. Her symptoms were managed at home, and her family took things day by day – talking openly about her condition and seeking distractions like watching their football team play whenever they could.
Ellie’s approach set the tone, as Maria explained: “As a family, it’s really important to us to stay positive, otherwise you get caught in this, kind of, vacuum of hospital visits and life becomes something completely different. But it was Ellie’s strength that keep the rest of us going.”
When it came to thinking what to wish for, Ellie zoned in on one of her favourite family traditions. Every winter, Maria took Ellie and her brother on a tour of the neighbourhood to admire all the Christmas lights. So, Ellie asked us to create a Christmas wonderland that would make her own home the star of the show!
Wishgranter Michaela got to work straight away and found a company that would lend their expertise at short notice. Maria also agreed that it would be fitting to host Make-A-Wish’s giant fundraising Wish Tree on their drive – to continue Ellie’s quest to give back. And it was all kept a surprise!
On the day of her wish, Ellie went to her dad’s. Little did she know that, once she was out of sight, teams from Make-A-Wish, At Last Events and Woof! Productions spent the day climbing up ladders, placing tinsel and wreaths ‘just so’, wrapping presents and decorating trees.
Just as it was getting dark, Maria went to pick up Ellie and did her best to distract her as she clocked that there was a house near their own that was brightly lit and attracting a lot of attention. There were company vans parked outside her home, her younger brother – Crystal Palace fan James, 15 - was waiting to meet her on the drive, there were wicker reindeer and fake snow, and there was a huge tree bearing white star-shaped lights in their front garden!
Her childhood wish to have her house turned into a festive wonderland in time for Christmas had come true. Inside, where her nan Evangelia and dad Bradley were waiting too, there was a room-height Christmas tree covering in decorations with presents beneath it. All that remained was for Ellie to place the final decoration on it – one with her name on it.
Ellie was speechless, but the smile on her face spoke volumes! She managed to say: “I know now what people mean when they say they’re lost for words. I had absolutely no idea that any of this was happening today!”
The following day, Maria took stock and told us: “The way it worked out was more beautiful than we’d ever dreamed of. It was absolutely magical and made such an incredible difference to us. We had huge smiles on our faces for days afterwards. We’ll never forget it.
“I can’t even express how grateful I am. It’s been incredible. To have been able to have all of this done for Ellie at such a crucial point in her journey where she really needs a boost has had a huge impact. So, thank you to everyone for everything they’ve done and everyone who has donated to Make-A-Wish because it does make a huge, huge difference.”
And that difference lives on, because placing the tap-to-donate Wish Tree at Ellie’s home raised £484 towards another child’s wish.