Annual Wishmaker Walk for Wishes raises $99,000 for P.E.I. chapter of the Children’s Wish Foundation
SUMMERSIDE — All families deserve time away from an illness, says Sam Dalton.
© Nancy MacPhee/Journal Pioneer
Mary Cameron and Sam Dalton with their children Gabriel, 7, Xavier, 8 and Sophia, 11, were among the participants in the Summerside Wishmaker Walk for Wishes. Gabriel, who was granted a wish earlier this year, was the parade marshal.
His son, Gabriel, was diagnosed with Sturge-Weber Syndrome at birth.
The seven-year-old is prone to seizures and his speech and mobility are delayed.
The youngster also has glaucoma, has had two eye surgeries and travels every few months to Montreal to have a birthmark on his face treated.
“He’s the happiest little guy. You would never know that he has to put up with anything,” said Sam. “That’s why we wanted him to be granted a wish because he’s such a trooper with everything. He never complains and always goes through everything with a smile.”
Saturday, Gabriel was parade marshal at the annual Children’s Wish Foundation Wishmaker Walk for Wishes in Summerside. In May, the Grade 1 Greenfield Elementary student had his wish granted to travel to Disney World with his family.
“What they’ve done is given us a lifetime of memories, a week away as a family where we could just concentrate on fun and just really bond as a family,” said Sam. “It was really the best time of our lives.”
The highlight for Gabriel was meeting Buzz Lightyear and Woody from Toy Story.
The trip, said Sam, seemed to re-energize his son.
“He can walk and everything but he does have mobility issues. On that trip he was running. We had never seen him run like that. He would run to all the places.”
From his perch in the passenger seat of a Summerside Fire Department truck Gabriel and siblings, Sophia and Xavier, led the walk, which saw dozens of people take to the streets to raise money and awareness of the foundation’s work.
“It is such a wonderful organization,” said Gabriel’s mother, Mary Cameron. “It just helps so many families out that are going through such a rough time in their lives.”
Nicholas Reeves was dressed in his hockey jersey for Saturday’s walk.
Joining him were members of his hockey team who stuck by his side after he was diagnosed with leukemia in 2007.
“I was kind of scared a bit when they told me I was diagnosed,” said the 11-year-old Grade 6 student at Elm Street Elementary.
His mother, Jacqueline, added, “He’s been in remission since the end of June 2007 but the protocol is that they do three years of chemotherapy for boys. He’s been chemo free since August 2010. We’ve got two years in.”
Despite having cancer and taking chemo, Nicholas continued to play hockey.
“A lot of boys here today have watched him as he took his chemo pills on the bench and then he would go out and play,” said Jacqueline. “They were a real support.”
The same year he was diagnosed Nicholas was granted a wish to meet former Toronto Maple Leaf Darcy Tucker.
He met the team, was given a hockey stick by Tucker and also got to meet then Tampa Bay Lightning players Brad Richards, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier.
“We’re really grateful to the Children’s Wish Foundation and that we’re able to give back,” said Jacqueline. “As a family, we really benefitted from it as well. When you have a sick child the whole family is ill as well. It was really great to go and have fun and relax.”
This year marked the 20th anniversary of the Wishmaker Walk for Wishes.
“It is actually a milestone and quite exciting given the fact that the roots for Children’s Wish, nationally, started here on Prince Edward Island,” said the foundation’s fundraising co-ordinator, Jason MacLean. “To see it continue and become a national event is a pretty awesome thing.”
The Wishmaker Walk for Wishes is the biggest single fundraiser for the Children’s Wish Foundation. The hope this year was to raise $100,000 through the five walks that were held across the province on Saturday.
“Currently, on Prince Edward Island, we are working on 12 wishes,” said MacLean. “We’re hoping that the result of today will go a long way in ensuring those 12 wishes become a reality.”
The final tally was $99,000 raised.
But, added MacLean, the walk isn’t just about raising money.
“It’s such a community-oriented event that the awareness, the exposure and meeting people right across the province is just as important as the money.”
Most of the wishes waiting to be granted are for trips to Disney World.
“I tell people all the time that I personally believe that I have the best job in the world. You have the opportunity to help put smiles on faces of children and families who are going through a rough time,” said MacLean. “You only have to grant that one wish. Going to work Monday morning is extremely easy. I consider myself very blessed to be able to do so and look forward to it for years to come.”