Barn dance raises funds for Make-A-Wish

Two years ago, 7-year-old Will was eligible for a gift from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Diagnosed with cancer, he was able to go to Disney World with his family thanks to funding by Wishmakers.

Wishmakers grants wishes to at least two children a year and works directly with the Illinois branch of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. To raise the money, the group holds a variety of fundraisers and dinners throughout the year.

One such fundraiser was the Wishmaker’s barn dance, held Saturday. With tickets priced at $15, buses picked up attendees outside of KAM’S and transported them to Miner Farm, 5316 West Bloomington Rd., where there was a DJ and hay rides.

Margaret Johnson, event coordinator and junior in Media, said in its second year, the dance is one of the group’s bigger fundraisers.

She added that the barn dance is one of the organization’s most widely attended events.

Johnson said having a barn dance is a good way to bring awareness to Wishmakers and gain more support from students, as the organization is relatively new to campus.

“That’s really what we’ve been trying to do recently, trying to blend our fundraising and our events into what maybe some other clubs and groups have done in the past so that (students) become a little bit more aware (of us),” Johnson said.

The group has other fundraisers throughout the year, including a cupcake sale on the Quad and events at Noodles & Company and Cold Stone Creamery. But Jake Mihalkanin, external vice president of Wishmakers and junior in LAS, said having bigger events like the barn dance often helps the group gain more money and can help generate more interest in the club.

He said last year, Wishmakers made about $1,400 from the barn dance alone. The organization makes a donation to Make-A-Wish when it raises $5,000.

Mihalkanin, who has been involved with Wishmakers since his freshman year, said the barn dance resonates with students on campus, especially freshmen who sign up during Quad Day.

Jessie Cacioppo, second-year member of Wishmakers and senior in LAS, said she likes how the event “really helps kids.”

The group members do not specifically choose which wishes they grant. The RSO receives a certificate after the wish is granted with a picture of the child and the wish that they helped grant.

Ideally, however, the group would like to have a greater connection with the kids they are serving this year, said Maddie Knoll, Wishmakers president and junior in Social Work, in an email interview.

“Last year we had a 16-year-old boy who lived in the area and had wished to meet Big Time Rush,” Knoll said, referring to a boy band with a Nickelodeon television show. “He came to our pancake dinner with his mom, who spoke about his illness and wish experience.”

Meeting the children, Mihalkanin said, gives even more purpose to the organization’s fundraising efforts.

“Just hearing them tell their story — how much an impact it has on their lives — it changes everything,” Mihalkanin said. “I think if we actually get to meet the people that we get to grant wishes for, it would do tremendous things for building the club in the future.”

Miranda reached can be reached at [email protected]