SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Make-A-Wish creates life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses.
Make-A-Wish South Dakota & Montana was founded nearly 40 years ago and has granted more than 2,300 wishes to eligible kids, but the organization can’t do it alone.
Make-A-Wish has 59 chapters across the country and has granted hundreds of thousands of wishes since 1980.
“The wish child and their family is surrounded by an entire community of supporters and these are people who walk alongside them throughout their journey,” Make-A-Wish South Dakota & Montana CEO Sue Salter said.
Sue Salter is CEO of Make-A-Wish South Dakota & Montana and says wishes bring out the best in everyone.
“It’s not just a one-and-done thing. It starts from the referral at the very beginning, caring individuals who know about a child’s condition and refer them to Make-A-Wish, and carries all the way through this journey up until their wish and after, and we believe it has a life-changing impact on the child and their family forever,” Salter said.
The organization is able to grant wishes thanks to the generosity of others.
“We rely on individuals, companies, corporations and events like Angels With A Dream to raise the dollars that we need to grant the wishes,” Salter said.
Angels With A Dream is a car show, concert, and kids carnival rolled into one.
“Great looking cars, we’ve got a good band, we’ve got a great silent auction. It’s just a fun day for people to come out,” Angels With A Dream co-founder Lucy Welbig said.
“This year they’ll be able to see the fire truck again, and that seemed to be very popular. The face painting is very popular for the kids and it’s fun to watch them, you can see different faces running around with different animals or whatever they want on their face,” Angels With A Dream Founder Roxie Johnson said.
Salter says Angels founders Roxie Johnson and Lucy Welbig prove that generosity is contagious.
“They involve their families, they involve their friends, they recruit an army of volunteers. Roxie’s mother has stopped by the office to pick things up, her granddaughter has been involved since she was just a little girl, now she’s a teenager who has this same drive to give back,” Salter said.
Angels With A Dream got its start with a simple, yet impactful idea.
“My husband passed away of cancer about 12 years ago now, and his wish was to be able to grant wishes to kids,” Johnson said.
Roxie’s late husband, Bill, was diagnosed with cancer in July of 1999, two months after the couple was married. He battled the disease for nearly a decade.
“It ended up starting in his kidney, moved up into his lungs, then it went down to his stomach, then it moved up into the brain and he only lasted about a year and then he was gone,” Johnson said.
Gone, but not forgotten.
“He was a big, burly guy but he was soft, a pretty big teddy bear. He enjoyed riding motorcycle, he worked for the city transit company here in Sioux Falls. He was a mechanic, but loved to fish, hunt, anything we could do he enjoyed,” Johnson said.
Roxie says Bill was also a Navy veteran, volunteer firefighter, and most importantly, loved his family. Following his death, Bill’s dream quickly became reality.
“It was my dream to then make his dream come true and so far we’ve granted 16 wishes and about $150,000,” Johnson said.
Johnson and Welbig granted their 16th wish in early May. Over the years they’ve included a camper, room makeover, and trips to Disney World, Hawaii, and Los Angeles, and they say seeing the kids’ reaction is worth its weight in gold.
“We cry at the same time they do. It’s really priceless. You really can’t put a price on their face and what they’re expecting to do. It’s just unbelievable. Until you get in that position I guess it’s hard to understand,” Johnson said.
“You have so many emotions. We cry, we laugh, your heart starts going and it’s a moment that you can’t explain,” Welbig said.
The connection doesn’t end with that special moment.
“Several of our families are still coming to our events and talk to them throughout the year, which it’s nice to be able to stay in touch with the families,” Johnson said.
Johnson and Welbig are putting the finishing touches on the 11th annual Angels With A Dream event, and there’s no end in sight.
“We usually say this is the last year, but by the time the event comes and we get done with it we’re always saying ok, we’ll see you next year,” Johnson said.
A year’s worth of work, a lifetime of memories… all while asking for nothing in return.
“All that we need is just knowing that they got their wish,” Welbig said.
Angels With A Dream is Sunday, June 12th from noon until 3:00 p.m. at Great Bear Ski Valley in Sioux Falls. Registration for the car show starts at 10:00 a.m., while the silent auction runs from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.