A trip to Paris. A Caribbean cruise. Equipment for a home recording studio. A one-on-one with Justin Bieber. Or Shaquille O’Neal.
Those are some of the dreams that the Virgin Islands chapter of the Make A Wish Foundation has made come true for island youth in its first two years. If the chapter’s chairman, Rabbi Arthur Starr, had his wish, it would be that more people know about the foundation.
To help get the word out, the foundation has placed a large banner next to the nurses station in the pediatric ward of Schneider Hospital. A number of board members joined hospital staff Friday morning for an unveiling.
“We didn’t even know that the Make A Wish Foundation had a Virgin Islands chapter,” said Eddie Thomas, Director of Facilities Management at the hospital and the man who smoothed the way for the poster placement. He suggested the pediatric wing as the ideal location to capture the attention of friends and family of children who can benefit from the program. Virtually anyone can recommend a child to the foundation for consideration.
Anyone between the ages of 2-1/2 and 18 who has been diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition, is eligible, Starr said. There are really no other criteria. However, the foundation does interview the child to be sure the wish is truly his or her own and not a suggestion from a parent or sibling or someone else. And a doctor must certify that the child is physically able to fulfill the dream.
Once that is in place, the foundation takes over to make it happen.
Not every wish is expensive. According to a foundation release, “J’len” wants to be a policeman like his father. So for a day he was equipped with an authentic V.I. Police uniform and a specially constructed police car so he could pursue and arrest a “criminal.” A local attorney played the part of the miscreant.
Other dreams are a bit more pricey. The average cost is $5,000, Starr said, which is the standard donation from corporations or individuals who wish to sponsor a wish. More expensive proposals are routed to the South Florida Make A Wish Foundation in Ft. Lauderdale for review. The V.I. chapter is a part of the south Florida office.
“We have the best of both worlds,” Starr said. Any money collected by the V.I. chapter must be used for individuals living in or receiving medical care in the territory. But island residents also may be sponsored by the Florida office.
“When a child’s wish is granted, the family doesn’t spend a penny,” Starr said, even though family members frequently share in the adventure.
Nationally, Make A Wish began in 1980. It now has 64 chapters primarily in the U.S. The Virgin Islands group was established in 2010. According to a release from Starr, its current board members are Starr, his wife Linda Starr, Dr. Alfred Heath, Maria Ferreras, Lorraine Baa, Larry Benjamin, Dr. David Weisher, Victoria Squires, Tom Bolt, Cheryl Rink, Vivian Furet and Richard Grant.
For more information visit www.usvi.wish.org or call (340) 513-8213.