Katlyn Gould Wish Manager for Make -A-Wish recently realized a dream of her own when she assisted in making a wish come true for Ariel, an area three-year-old.
As a Wish Manager, Gould was in charge of planning for Ariel’s wish – to be outdoors more. Ariel suffers from Spinal Muscular Atrophy. Learning that pirates were favorites of Ariel, Make-A-Wish was able to provide a pirate-themed playhouse for her in her back yard with assistance from Pirate Play Ships. The owner, Derek Hinckley, traveled from Mount Juliet, TN to hand-build the playhouse.
He customized it just for Ariel as well to meet all of her physical needs. He made the ramp wheelchair accessible and had full covering over the deck top. For more information on his company, you can visit his website: www.pirateplayships.com.
Gould said, “Knowing that Ariel would now be getting her very own Pirate Ship in her back yard, we came across one challenge. She did not have wheelchair access to the back yard in order to enjoy this pirate playhouse. Again, I did some research and found an amazing organization called Emmanuwheel. This organization works to build wheelchair accessible ramps and home modifications to individuals who cannot afford such modifications. Their website for more information is www.emmanuwheel.org. The Executive Director, Jeff Kerby, came up with a ramp design, an extensive project. They then sent out a team leader the day of building and took care of all funds incurred with building Ariel’s ramp while Make-A-Wish SC got together a group of hard-working volunteers.
The project was completed with the help of many volunteers. (See related story about Ariel).
Making wishes come true is very personal to Gould, who is a former wish child. At the age of 14, Katlyn was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma, a form of cancer in the lymph nodes. She went through four rounds of chemotherapy and eight weeks of radiation. After six months of treatment, she was declared in remission and is currently seven years cancer free.
Gould said, “Because of this experience, I had the opportunity to receive a wish from the Make-A Wish Foundation. I received my wish at the age of 16. My wish was to go to a Red Sox game in Boston and meet the centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. During my wish trip, I received a personal tour of Fenway Park, got to go down on the field and meet Jacoby during batting practice, was given tons of memorabilia items, and got to meet with the other players who were on the field practicing.
“This was truly a dream come true for me. But, it also wasn’t just about me. I was old enough to know and understand the challenge I was going through at the time and to see the impact on my family. It was a challenge we took on as a family and defeated as a family.
“The Make-A-Wish Foundation allowed my family to join me on this trip so that we could celebrate in the trials we had overcome together. It was a joy for my parents, and for my little brother to see his first major league game. Make-A-Wish gave us a break from the hospital visits, scans, and uncontrollable medical results, and instead gave us wonderful memories as a family that will last for a lifetime and to me, that’s priceless.”
She continued, “Because of my first-hand experience with Make-A-Wish and the true impact it had on my life, I found a love in this organization that has stayed with me.”
Gould attended Clemson University and studied Sociology with a minor in Non-Profit Leadership and worked towards her dream of one day working for this organization. Immediately after graduation in May 2014, she was hired by the South Carolina chapter as a Wish Manager.
She added, “Now I get to spend every day granting wishes and giving hope, strength and joy to children who share a story similar to mine. It is my way of saying thank you to this amazing organization that truly changed my life.”
Make-A-Wish Foundation grants wishes to children ages 2½ to 18 years. Medical eligibility is determined by each child’s physician. Last year they granted 156 wishes – the most ever in S.C. Currently there are more than 200 medically qualified children waiting for wishes in South Carolina.
Gould said the most popular wish is a trip to Walt Disney World Resort. Other popular wishes are for computer, shopping sprees, celebrity meetings and room redecorations. Each wish is unique as the child making the request.
The average cost of a wish is around $7500, and 83 percent of every dollar raised is used to grant wishes.
Funding comes from donations from individuals, companies, and special events such as golf tournaments and auctions, Gould said.
For more information on Make-A-Wish, call 864-250-0702 or visit www.sc.wish.org