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SU club to help grant wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses

Taking a trip to Disney World to get the autograph of a favorite Disney character, visiting the White House to meet President Barack Obama, spending a day in the life of a fireman – these are the types of personalized wishes the Make-A-Wish Foundation grants to children with life-threatening illnesses.

Syracuse University students can now have a hand in granting wishes like these through the new Wishmakers on Campus @ SU, which is part of the international Make-A-Wish organization.

“The whole idea is we give these kids hope,” said Brian Yuhan, president of the group. “We also hope to be part of the healing process. So besides the physical and the doctors and diagnosis, we hope to inspire them to actually enjoy life again, to appreciate and to have experiences that make them feel like they can keep on fighting.”

Luis Castelan, co-founder of Wishmakers, said the mission of Make-A-Wish is to fundraise money in order to grant the wishes of children facing life-threatening illnesses.

Yuhan and Castelan, both sophomore biology majors, helped bring Make-A-Wish to SU.  Both had personal experiences with Make-A-Wish before coming to SU, and were surprised to find that despite the proximity of the Central New York headquarters, SU did not have a Wishmakers on Campus chapter.

The Central New York headquarters oversees donations to Make-A-Wish and the wishes of children from 15 counties. Bethann Kistner, public relations and communications manager for Make-A-Wish of Central New York, said the Central New York district is on track to grant 90-100 wishes this year. Kistner said local wishes average to about $9,000 per child, but can be a lot more expensive.

The Wishmakers’ goal for the semester is to build a strong foundation for the chapter. They hope to promote and familiarize the foundation’s name on campus, Yuhan said.

“We want to organize it, we want to streamline it and hopefully we can amplify the student body’s response for this,” he said.

They hope to begin some smaller-scale fundraising this semester, including the sale of T-shirts, bags and wristbands, Yuhan said.

In the future, the group hopes to partner with other student organizations on campus, such as greek life organizations and sports teams, he added.

“We hope as a chapter that we can be a bridge between the organization and the university, and create more opportunity for campus organizations to do good,” said Pasang Lhamo, public relations chair of Wishmakers, in an email.

Other big plans for the chapter include starting a Walk for Wishes 5K fundraiser, in addition to involving the chapter with the Ms. Orange Fan Luncheon fundraiser in the fall.

The group also hopes to develop a strong bond with Golisano Children’s Hospital, which is part of Upstate Medical University, Yuhan said. He said he hopes the members will be active in volunteering at the hospital and be able to meet kids who are patients there.

The chapter is holding its first general interest meeting Tuesday, Feb. 19 at 6:30 p.m. in the Life Sciences Complex, room 105. Both SU and State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry students are invited to attend.

“Everyone has a right to life, and when that’s jeopardized it’s really scary,” said Castelan, one of the co-founders. “They’re innocent, they’re young. This is an organization that makes the best out of any situation.”

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