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Founded in 1980, the Make-a-Wish Foundation exists to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions. The policy of the organization, which aims to offer strength, joy and hope, is that illness, medical treatment and death are not emphasized, and words such as "terminal" are never used to refer to Make-a-Wish recipients. The Make-a-Wish Foundation serves children in the United States, Puerto Rico and Guam, while Make-a-Wish International grants wishes to children in nearly 50 countries. Both organizations are headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona.

Impacts of Granted Wishes

Healthcare providers, parents and volunteers report that granted wishes improve the quality of life for children, giving them renewed drive and energy to continue fighting their illness. Children feel better, have more energy and strength, and are more likely to comply with challenging and unpleasant medical treatments. Wishes also help children feel self-confident and less isolated. Granted wishes benefit families, who feel strengthened and hopeful about the future. Family members are also more likely to "pay it back" by helping others.

Types of Wishes

Children's wishes nearly always fall into four basic categories, which the Foundation classifies as "To Go," "To Meet," "To Have" or "To Be." Travel is the most common wish; many children want to enjoy a cruise or visit a specific location or event such as a theme park or major sporting event. Some children dream of meeting an admired sports figure or celebrity, while others desire a shopping trip or something specific such as a puppy or a new computer. Many want to spend a day as a policeman, ballerina or firefighter.

Qualifying for Make-A-Wish

Wish referrals come from parents, medical professionals or from the child. Wishes are available to children who are between the ages of 2 1/2 and 18 at the time of referral. Wishes are not granted based on qualifications such as race, sex, socioeconomic status or religion; however, a certified medical professional must verify the child is facing a life-threatening medical condition. Children who have received a wish from another organization are not eligible.

Following the Money

The Make-a-Wish Foundation is a tax-exempt organization. Money comes from private donations, planned gifts and grants along with corporate gifts and sponsorships. The Foundation benefits from donations of hotel loyalty points and frequent flyer miles. Make-a-Wish receives no funding from governmental entities, and money is never solicited by telemarketing or door-to-door fundraising campaigns. The organization meets or exceeds standards set forth by the Council of Better Business Bureaus and many charity watchdog organizations, at the time of publication. The Foundation has received a number of awards for its fiscally responsible practices.