Dying Wishes: Weddings to Helping Homeless

One case, where cost became a problem, took place in Philadelphia, when Tommy Geromichalos wished that his parochial school, St. Cyril's, would stay open until he could complete the eighth grade.

While the wish was initially declined, the attendant publicity resulted in the school raising $400,000, and Geromichalos graduated last spring, said Goodrich.

Sometimes, it's the dying child who coordinates the last wish.

Seattle Boy Helps Homeless

With just two weeks to live, 11-year-old Brenden Foster of Lynnwood, Wash., made a dying wish to help others. In the final stages of leukemia, he was captivated by a homeless camp.

"He's always thought about others. Never complained about having to go through this, ever," his mother, Wendy Foster, told ABC's affiliate KOMO in Seattle.

Brenden had always been the fastest runner and highest climber and wanted to be marine photographer. But when he was diagnosed with leukemia, his dream was to help others.

"I was coming back from one of my clinic appointments and I saw this big thing of homeless people, and then I thought I should just get them something," Brenden told KOMO's reporter Elisa Jaffe. "They're probably starving, so give them a chance."

Touched by his request, a local group made 200 sandwiches and delivered them to the homeless. Brenden died last November.

"It's devastating, but I find great peace in knowing we've had our time together and that we will see each other again," said his mother.

Wishes Cater to Parents' Needs

Gerald Koocher, the dean of health sciences at Simmons College in Boston said that groups like the Make-a-Wish Foundation appeal to a particular adult-oriented need.

The mentality, he said, is "This poor child isn't going to have a life. I'm going to do something special for them. Both the families want to do something special for the child if they can't buy them life … and the contributors want to help do something special."

And weddings, it seems, are a special last wish for a number of patients.

Koocher recalls working with a 19-year-old who had received a lung transplant that had been rejected. With not much longer to live, the young man married his high school sweetheart in the intensive care unit, with his psychotherapist, transplant surgeon and family in attendance.

"It was actually one of the most poignant experiences in my career," said Koocher. "It was very meaningful.

"Some of these poignant moments can be very, very powerful," he continued. "My eyes fill up when I think about going to the wedding in the intensive care unit.

"You knew that everyone was going to remember it. That can be a powerful emotional gift."

Koocher noted that occasionally wishes can come with complications.

He recalled working with one patient who was fighting with his brother when Make-a-Wish awarded him a trip, and he wanted to leave his sibling home. The family, however, did not play along.

But sometimes the unexpected can have more positive results.

One 11-year-old cancer patient Koocher worked with had wanted a boat and received one through Make-a-Wish.

Not expected to survive to age 12, the boy eventually recovered completely and now works in the boating industry – the gift boat having launched his career.

Koocher noted that while the gift is ostensibly for the child, the payoff for others can be greater.

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