Jo Sicily Birds

Wishes Come True with Make-A-Wish

The Make-A-Wish Foundation is probably one of the most incredible non-profits in existence.

While most non-profits work on the back-end of illness (by funding research for potential new medications, therapies, and “cures”), Make-A-Wish works on the front-end of illness by providing tangible services and goods to children and their families as soon as they become qualified for a wish.

In order to qualify for a wish, a child does not need to have a terminal illness and be dying.

Instead, a doctor needs to recommend the child as someone who is living with a life-threatening illness.

Make-A-Wish specifically states that children who receive wishes are not at the end of hope, but the beginning:

“We have frequently been described in the media or by word of mouth as granting wishes for children with “terminal” illnesses. We actually grant wishes to children with “life-threatening medical conditions.” Many people believe (incorrectly) that we grant wishes only to children who are dying, when in fact we see the process of making a wish as life-affirming and full of hope. Families tell us that a wish can encourage a child to fight for a future, often against tremendous odds, when courage and hope are flagging. Our wish children who are now adults would attest to this!”

Thalassemia is a life-threatening illness. Babies born with the illness receive a great amount of care to remain alive. That care includes chronic blood transfusions and daily iron chelation medication. Without care, a person living with thalassemia will die, so it technically is a terminal illness.

Make-A-Wish was founded in 1980. 13 years later, they were contacted by my pediatrician, Dr. Weinblatt, who recommended that I receive a wish. Make-A-Wish agreed.

I was seventeen years old at the time — one year shy of being too old for a wish.

I remember the situation pretty well. Two people came to my house and said something along the lines of, “if you could wish for anything, what would you wish for (within reason)?”

One thing that I absolutely loved to do was play video games on the computer. So, my first wish idea was to receive a top-of-the-line gaming computer. One of those $4,500 machines that in 1993 would blow away my slow Hewlett Packard (HP) computer.

I knew the machine would depreciate and eventually become obsolete, so I started to think of other wishes.

“Meeting Madonna would be so cool,” I thought. “What if she and I hung out in her limo and went shopping for clothes? Maybe that could be another option.”

Then I started to think about my family and what could benefit us all. I thought of the small town in Italy where my father grew up and how a trip there might be an experience that we could all cherish forever.

I thought about it for a day or two. Then I made my decision.

I figured that a souped up computer would still play the same games that I played on my HP; Madonna would be fun to meet, but she probably wouldn’t care too much about me; and a trip to Sicily would be an experience that I could share with my entire family and make us all happy.

The choice was clear. I chose Sicily.

The Make-A-Wish people (a man and a woman) came back to my parents’ house to listen to my wish idea. They responded by saying “I think we can make that happen.”

Wishes Come True

Then, just like magic, the trip came together and we were on our way! I think the trip took place in August, one month before my 18th birthday. 🙂

Alitalia sponsored our flights, which took us first to Rome, Italy and then to Palermo, Italy.

A small rickety plane took us to Palermo, where the landing strip was a tiny road surrounded by bales of hay.

The first thing I noticed upon stepping out of the plane was the warm crisp air. I’m talking absolutely perfect heat with no humidity and a cool breeze.

We were quickly on our way to a hotel after going through customs and getting our car rental.

The roads that we drove down to get to my father’s town were long and scenic, with lush trees and beautiful landscapes.

I remember one road was next to a cliff that appeared to have a castle on top of it. I had never seen anything like it.

We spent two weeks in a hotel next to the Mediterranean Sea, where little green lizards climbed the cement exterior of the building and cacti grew as readily as oak trees in New York.

Make-A-Wish provided everything for us, including spending money for food and fun.

The food was absolutely incredible. I ate lots of seafood, gelato, and fruits that were double or triple the size of their American counterparts, thanks to fertile land and constant heat.

Our fun was in driving around the twisted tiny roads, meeting up with my father’s old friends, shopping, swimming, touring the ancient buildings, and of course sun bathing by the Sea.

Sicily felt like home to me. I was certainly sad to leave and definitely hope to go back someday.

Here are some pictures from the vacation:

Jo and Glo

My sister and I collecting shells from the Mediterranean Sea.


Glo and Jo at Mediterranean

My sister and I standing on the walkway near our hotel.


Jo in Hotel

A picture of me standing on our hotel room’s balcony, overlooking the pool.


Jo with her family

My family and I enjoying the scenery.


If you’ve ever wanted to support a non-profit, but you’re unsure of which one to give to… consider the good work of Make-A-Wish.

What do you think about the Make-A-Wish foundation? Have you ever received a wish? Let me know in the comments below!

More from Make-A-Wish

Here are some other photos of kids receiving their wish. My eyes get all teary thinking about how much these moments meant to these kids.

Girl with Elmo

A little girl named Amanda meets her favorite Sesame Street character, Elmo.


Obama meets little girl

Janiya can’t believe that she got her wish to meet President Obama.


Patrick Stewart meets little boy

10-year old Dawn meets her hero Patrick Stewart.


Hellboy meets little boy

Zachary meets his favorite movie star, Hellboy.

And of course, who can forget the incredible Batboy of San Francisco?

Wishing you the very best,
Josephine Bila

About the Author

Josephine Bila

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I’m Josephine Bila, LMSW, a licensed social worker for you — the health seeker who craves an energized body, strong relationships, and the willpower to overcome any obstacle.

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  1. Oh my goodness, this made me cry! I definitely know where my next donation is going to go. Xx Claudia (Destinfabuleux on twitter)

  2. What a great story. I’m so glad you had that experience. Make a Wish is such a wonderful organization.

  3. It’s great to see how things have gone for you since your wish. Congratulations on all you’ve achieved, and thanks for the kind words about Make-A-Wish!

    1. Thank you, @wandering_j:disqus! Yes, I’m very fortunate to now work an advocate for people living with chronic or terminal illness. Feel free to contact me at if you’re ever interested in having me speak about how great my experience with Make-A-Wish was! Same goes for @joshdeberge:disqus. Much love!

  4. Josephine…this is a terrific story. Would you mind contacting me via e-mail: Thanks!
    Josh deBerge, Senior Manager, National Communications and PR at Make-A-Wish America.

  5. I enjoyed your post! The pictures are precious. Thanks so much! The boys both wished for Disneyworld and we stayed at the Give Kids the World Village twice! The Montana Hope Project granted their wishes. This organization is run by members of the Highway Patrol and one of the officers came to our house both times and presented the boys with a check. We had the best time and the boys were able to cut in front on rides and we went to Universal Studios as well as Daytona and the ocean. I will always be thankful!

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