RSO partners with Make-A-Wish to help grant wishes to children with illnesses


Photo courtesy of Natalia Wojnowski

Natalia Wojnowski, Julia Bastow and Ema Khan at the Make a Wish office in Chicago.

By Megan Bradley, Staff writer

The Make-A-Wish Foundation has a lasting impact on children with illnesses. Lindsey Panozzo, sophomore in AHS, received her own wish about 6 years ago.

After being diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer and undergoing chemotherapy, Panozzo’s wish to go to Hawaii with her family was granted.  

Panozzo now gives back to Make-A-Wish by advocating for the organization as much as she can and becoming involved in various fundraising efforts that will support Make-A-Wish. One organization on campus that Panozzo is involved with is the Wish Makers RSO.

“We raise money for Make-A-Wish, so Make-A-Wish can do all the amazing things it does,” Panozzo said. “They’re founded on volunteers who spend so much time trying to organize this and they do it because they love it.”

She said the Wish Makers hosts fundraising events to get people involved in order to help those with life-threatening conditions, and bring people together as well.

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Panozzo wants Wish Makers to receive the attention she believes the RSO deserves, because Make-A-Wish has such a profound impact on kids and their families.

Wish Makers welcomes anyone who wants to join. Joining only requires students attend biweekly meetings and participate in various fundraisers, such as different restaurant partnerships on Green Street, quad sales or a Joe’s fundraiser that they sell wristbands for.

All the money the RSO raises goes directly to Make-A-Wish Illinois.

“The way it works, it used to be where they matched you to a specific kid, but they’ve switched it now so it’s an adopt-a-wish process so the money you raise goes towards whatever wishes they’re granting at the time,” said Natalia Wojnowski, senior in LAS and co-president of Wish Makers.

Wish Makers is also given the opportunity to work with wish families in the Champaign-Urbana area. If there is a local child who receives a wish, Wish Makers can host the going away party for the wish family.

Make-A-Wish has helped many families and is a way to give hope to children with illnesses.

Ema Khan, junior in LAS and the Wish Makers fundraising director, said their philosophy is: Hope is medicine.

“It’s hard to find things that make you happy when you’re sick and going through something so difficult,” Panozzo said, adding that knowing she had an upcoming wish while she was undergoing treatment helped her have hope throughout the process.

Make-A-Wish also has an impact on families of kids with illnesses, which then inspires them to join Wish Makers on campus.

Both Wojnowski and Julia Bastow, freshman in DGS and the other co-president of Wish Makers, joined Wish Makers because they were personally touched by Make-A-Wish through having friends or family receive wishes.

Bastow said her cousin, who was diagnosed with brain cancer at 15-years-old, was a wish kid. However, she was unable to follow though with her wish because she passed away.

“It was something very exciting for her and it was something light in a dark situation,” Bastow said. “And then Make-A-Wish actually gave all of us, her family members, a necklace with her name and the brain cancer ribbon and a cross and it was just a really nice gesture that will stick with our family.”

Aside from fundraising, Wish Makers hosts meetings where they participate in Make-A-Wish events such as writing letters for the Macy’s Believe Campaign where Macy’s will donate a dollar per letter written to Make-A-Wish.

The RSO has also taken trips, such as visiting the Chicago Make-A-Wish office.

“I think my favorite memory was when we all met up in Chicago and we went to the Make-A-Wish office that oversees all of Illinois’ Make-A-Wish and Wish Makers on campus and it was just super cool to see the impact they make,” Khan said. “They had stars on the wall with every wish that’s ever been granted in Illinois.”

This year, Wish Makers is having a wish week on April 23-27.

They will have events every day such as a movie showing, food fundraisers and a check presentation where they will give the check to Make-A-Wish to show all the work they have put in this year.

After wish week, Wish Makers will also participate in Walk for Wishes in May. Wish Makers has a team that will be participating in the event as well as helping Make-A-Wish with some of the planning.

The RSO tries to host events that will make people feel engaged and connected to the cause because that is how they can raise the most money.

The impact that Make-A-Wish and Wish Makers can have on wish families is the most important part of the organization and something that they try to make others aware of.

“I just try to get involved and show people how my wish impacted me and how it’s impacted my family even six years later because if people can see my experience with it then they’ll want to help,” Panozzo said, “I love being involved because then I see how I can help other people with it.”

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