Whether they once were terminally ill children or knew those that were, a group of UTD students is working to fund the wishes of children like them.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation is a nonprofit organization where donors and volunteers work to make the dreams of terminally ill children happen, such as going to see Justin Bieber live or becoming Batman for a day. Wishmakers at UTD is among the foundation’s donors. As the Wishmakers founders have graduated from UTD, a new set of officers, including
President Karthika Venugopalan, a biology and health care management senior, now plan and carry out fundraising efforts.
“I had known about the Make-A-Wish foundation for a long time, since one of my friends was diagnosed with cancer in elementary school,” Venugopalan said. “(Wishmakers) allowed me to contribute on campus as well as to the community.”
Venugopalan said she met the founders at an Alpha Epsilon Delta fundraising event and signed up for the newly-created organization immediately. Both Venugopalan and biology sophomore Hannah Qureshi, the group’s fundraising chair, said meeting those personally affected by Make-A-Wish has been one of their most rewarding experiences with Wishmakers.
“At the freshman orientation booths, you’re surprised to actually see how many people are personally dedicated to the Make-A-Wish foundation and have experienced some of those complications on their own,” Qureshi said. “To see that come forth at a direct level was very cool.”
In the previous school year, Wishmakers raised over $5,000 for Make-A-Wish. Venugopalan said the organization has set its sights on raising $7,500 this year.
“The average wish for a child costs around $7,500,” Venugopalan said. “That’s just the average. If a child wants to go to Florida, of course it’s going to cost more. We want to make every dream possible for these children.”
Wishmakers hosts a weekly booth at the SU, where it typically sells items such as samosas, boba tea and bundt cakes. Electrical engineering sophomore Elisa Thomas, a member of Wishmakers, said she valued being able to directly spread awareness of their mission while helping run the organization’s booths.
“When I would talk to (people stopping by) about the Wishmakers and the Make-A-Wish foundation, it was surprising that a lot of people didn’t really know what it was,” Thomas said. “For me, it was really nice to help them get to know what the Make-A-Wish foundation does, and what we do to help them. Spreading that awareness was really cool.”
Fundraising events include selling chocolate and roses on Valentine’s Day and participating in Macy’s National Believe Day on Dec. 8, where every letter sent to the corporation raises $2 for Make-A-Wish. Electrical engineering sophomore Chandler Linseisen, another member of Wishmakers, said the times spent helping with fundraising events have become some of her favorite experiences.
“One thing we’ve done is we’ve gone Christmas caroling,” Linseisen said. “In rehearsal before caroling, we tried to form a choir. It didn’t really work out as well as we had intended, but it was definitely a lot of fun trying to do different parts and things like that. We raised a fair amount of money from that.”
Biology sophomore Sarah Zaidi, Wishmakers’ service chair, said the organization members hope to host a booth outside and sell colder items such as snow cones to attract more attention to the organization and its cause. They are also in the process of coordinating a dog-petting event and a Make-A-Wish color run later in the year.