Make-A-Wish Foundation

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Make-A-Wish Foundation logo.jpg
President of the United States Barack Obama meets a Make-a-Wish Foundation child in the Oval Office, June 2011.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in the United States that arranges experiences (described as "wishes") to children with life-threatening medical conditions.[1] In order to qualify for a wish, the child must be between the ages of 2 and a half and 18 at the time of referral. It is the child's physician that ultimately decides if a child is eligible.[1]

The national headquarters and founding chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation are in Phoenix, Arizona.[2] The organization grants wishes through its 62 chapters located throughout the US. Make-A-Wish also operates in 47 other countries around the world through 36 affiliate offices.[3] The President and CEO of Make-A-Wish America is David A. Williams. Professional wrestler John Cena holds the title for most wishes granted by a single individual, with over 450 wishes.


In the spring of 1980, 7-year-old Christopher James Greicius was being treated for leukemia. He had always wanted to be a police officer. U.S. Customs Officer Tommy Austin befriended Chris and worked with officers at the Arizona Department of Public Safety to plan an experience to lift Greicius' spirits. Chris spent the day as a police officer, rode in a police helicopter, received a custom-tailored police uniform, and was sworn in as the first honorary DPS patrolman in state history. Greicius died soon after, but his wish became inspiration for the world's largest wish-granting organization.[citation needed]


Children who may be eligible to receive a wish can be referred by one of the following three sources:

  1. Medical professionals treating the child
  2. A parent or legal guardian
  3. The potential wish child

To refer a child, the appropriate referral source can use Make-A-Wish’s online inquiry form or contact the Make-A-Wish chapter closest to them. All medical information is considered confidential and is not discussed with outside parties unless it is required for the wish and the child’s parent(s) or guardian(s) have given their consent.

A child with a life-threatening medical condition who has reached the age of 2½ and is under the age of 18 at the time of referral, is potentially eligible for a wish. After a child is referred, the child’s treating physician must determine whether the child is medically eligible for a wish, based on the medical criteria established by Make-A-Wish. In addition, a child cannot have received a wish from another wish-granting organization.[4]

Each Make-A-Wish chapter follows specific policies and guidelines for granting a child’s wish. Make-A-Wish works closely with the wish child’s physician and family to determine the most appropriate time to grant the wish, keeping in mind the child’s treatment protocol or other concerns. Most wish requests fall into five categories: I wish to go, I wish to be, I wish to meet, I wish to have, or I wish to give.[4]


National Board of Directors: The National Board of Directors helps chart Make-A-Wish’s course. They contribute a vast array of experience and skills that help maintain Make-A-Wish’s status as the nation’s largest wish-granting organization. The board determines the mission and vision, evaluates and supports the president and chief executive officer, and protects Make-A-Wish’s assets. The board enhances Make-A-Wish’s public standing, ensures accountability, maintains legal integrity, and assesses its own performance.[5]

Senior Leadership Team: This team is composed of Make-A-Wish’s top-level management. Each member is a National Office leader in disciplines that include wish-granting, fundraising, legal, brand advancement and operational activities. The president and CEO guides the strategic plan in areas such as board development, talent development, fundraising, and corporate relations.[5]


Make-A-Wish ceased granting wishes involving the gift or use of firearms or other weapons designed to cause injury in 1996, based on concerns over maintaining the well-being of a child in a weakened state handling weapons. In response, three organizations were formed: Hunt of a Lifetime, which arranged hunting trips for terminally ill children,[6][7] Catch-a-Dream,[8] which was conceived by Mississippi outdoorsman Bruce Brady, and formed by his loved ones following Brady's death from cancer, to grant hunting experiences to ill children, and Life Hunts founded by the Buckmasters American Deer Foundation.

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