Terminally ill patients often open up and share with nurses
their feelings, fears and unfulfilled dreams. A simple telephone call to a loved
one may be all that’s needed to fulfill an unmet goal. But for those aspirations
requiring more intervention, nurses can turn to organizations devoted to
granting wishes to terminally ill adults.
“What we do gives a cancer patient some place to go to at
the end,” said Jan Stanton, founder of the Celebrate Your Life Foundation in
Port Angeles, Washington. “It’s a painful place to be. We can give them a place
to retreat to, so they have memories of the good times.”
Most patients requesting a wish seek to go somewhere
special with their families and have fun together. But one woman wanted someone
to keep her home clean. A man wanted to go to a NASCAR race. Celebrate Your Life
granted both requests, arranging for a maid service and for pit and garage
passes at a NASCAR race. The man also met his favorite driver Dale Jarrett.
Stanton recommends people apply for their wish as soon as
they know their prognosis and have a desire to go somewhere or achieve
something. Some wishes take time to set up.
A breast cancer survivor, Stanton formed Celebrate Your
Life after undergoing treatment. She feared she wouldn’t make it and thought
about what she would want to do if the end of her life was near. Not finding
organizations that grant wishes to adults, she and her friends decided to form
the foundation, at first limiting it to people in their town.
Once the foundation began granting wishes nationwide,
requests soon outpaced donations and the organization temporarily has limited
wish making to Washington-state residents. The nonprofit organization and others
like it, depend on contributions from individuals and corporations.
The Dream Foundation, Santa Barbara, began granting wishes
to adults 12 years ago and relies on donated airline miles and other noncash
donations. It grants travel but also has arranged to have a small meditation
pond built in a dying patient’s backyard and to enable a local photographer to
show her works in an exhibition at a hotel.
“What we do is hope,” said Jackie Waddill, program director
of the Dream Foundation. “When medicine can no longer can make that difference,
when medicine is no longer going to give a cure, we can help. We help manifest
Waddill said many wishes involve reuniting family members
or keeping a promise to a child for a family trip, often to Walt Disney World.
“They want to be remembered laughing with their kids,”
Waddill said. “They want that picture of them riding Dumbo with their child on
the mantle when they are gone.”
Hospice nurses often refer patients to the Dream
Foundation, after patients confide such goals to their nurses. They also call on
the Fairygodmother Foundation in Chicago.
“Nurses, whether working in hospice or as visiting nurses
or in the hospital, have a secret underground for finding out what their
patients need,” said Stevie Ball, CEO of the Fairygodmother Foundation. “Then
they take care of business.”
Nurses may request an application from Fairygodmother, but
patients must apply for a wish themselves. All three organizations require
confirmation of the prognosis by the patient’s doctor.
Donors frequently underwrite specific wishes at
Fairygodmother. The organization sends a disposable camera to recipients to help
them document the wish event.
Now healthy and surviving the disease, Stanton finds joy in
bringing other people’s wishes to life.
“We get wonderful phone calls from excited people,” Stanton
said. “It’s good to hear how it went.”
Waddill finds it challenging and emotionally uplifting. She
said every day is like Christmas, with wish recipients receiving special and
“We give hope and promise and magic,” Waddill said. “Dreams
are wishes the heart makes.”
For more information or to download an application:
Celebrate Your Life Foundation.
© 2006. AMN Healthcare, Inc. All Rights Reserved.