ROCKLAND, Maine — Since its founding in 1992, the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Maine has granted nearly 1,000 wishes to children from all over the state with life-threatening medical conditions.
Now, the foundation has a wish of its own — for frequent-flier miles, to help the kids’ wishes come true.
“I think about 60 percent of our wishes are travel wishes. We do go through quite a bit of airline miles,” Lisa Gleeson, the nonprofit organization’s communications manager, said Friday. “It can add up quickly.”
A lot of donors to the program believe that the foundation receives free or discounted airline tickets, but that is not the case, foundation officials said. Each wish costs an average of $6,000.
“We really need the help of the flying public to keep up with the demand for these magical wishes,” Thomas Peaco, executive director of the foundation, said in a press release issued Friday. “Contributions of frequent-flier miles are a tremendous help to us in sharing the power of a wish with seriously ill children all over Maine.”
Those children include 6-year-old James Kennedy of Rockland, who has leukemia and muscular dystrophy. James, his little brother Travis, mom Crystal and dad Christopher Kennedy just returned from spending a week in Florida, where they were able to check out Disney World, Universal Studios and Sea World.
“We had a great time,” Crystal Kennedy said. “Make-A-Wish made it really easy for us to just go and have a good time.”
She said that the organization has been “really great” through everything.
“You can’t say enough words to express my gratitude, that’s for sure,” she said. “It was definitely nice to be able to just relax and have a week to not think about what’s at home.”
Other wishes the foundation has been able to grant include seeing fireworks for New Year’s Eve in Australia, swimming with manta rays in Hawaii, surfing in the Bahamas, shopping at the Mall of America and more.
Some future travel-based wishes involve sending a 12-year-old girl to Walt Disney World and two teenage girls to Busch Gardens to participate in zookeeping camp.
Receiving frequent-flier miles would make granting these wishes easier, according to foundation officials.
“The cost of airplane tickets is definitely one of our largest costs,” Wish manager Melinda Ferrazza said.
Wishes involving travel always include the child’s immediate family at no expense to the family.
Last year, donated miles covered five or six wishes, she said, out of perhaps 50 wishes that included air travel.
Hoping to boost that percentage, the foundation has a simple process to donate frequent-flier miles. Corporations that donate likely could get a tax write-off, Gleeson said.
“It’s a great way to donate if you don’t have the cash to give,” she said. “All the money we raise, and everything that is given to us from a Maine donor stays right here for Maine kids.”
For more information on the organization or how to make a donation, call 800-491-3171 or visit www.maine.wish.org.