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SPOTLIGHT ON » MAKE-A-WISH NEW JERSEY
Where Dreams Come True
Bringing joy and strength to critically ill kids and teens.
“We want to
bring joy and
—Thomas P. Weatherall, CEO
wishes come in all shapes and sizes: meeting a
famous person, taking an unforgettable vacation,
or making a difference in someone else’s life.
When Make-A-Wish New Jersey asked
cancer patient Micaela for her wish, the
16-year-old revealed her desire to become a
cardiothoracic surgeon. “I knew I was interested
in medicine,” says Micaela (whose full name is
withheld to protect her privacy).
Make-A-Wish NJ seeks to make wishes come
true for children and teens like Micaela who are
diagnosed with critical illnesses, including cystic
fibrosis, nervous-system disorders and cancer. The organization’s sole mission is to grant
wishes and contribute to the well-being of the
children who come to them for help.
“Make-A-Wish wants to come into their lives
and change those heavy experiences of fear and
the unknown,” says Thomas Weatherall, CEO
of Make-A-Wish NJ since 2005. The children
referred to the charity are not all terminally ill, but
their illnesses are, in one way or another,
life threatening. “We want to
bring childhood, joy and adven-
ture back into their lives… and
ideally, bring some strength to
their battles as well.”
Make-A-Wish NJ receives no
government funding and never
charges a fee. Instead, it relies on
philanthropy. “We are so fortu-
nate in New Jersey to have one of
the most generous communities
in the country,” says Weatherall.
The nonprofit is headquartered in Monroe Township in a whimsical, cas-tle-like building named for donors Samuel and
Josephine Plumeri. Walking through its forestlike halls, children enter a land of enchantment.
Vivid murals adorn the Inspiration Room, while
hooting owls, brewing potions and a wishing star
add fantasy to the Wishing Room.
In New Jersey, approximately 700 children
a year are diagnosed with a life-threatening
illness. Improving their out-
look and chance for recovery
is the critical work of Make-
warm and fuzzy,” says Weath-
erall. “We are at times just as
important as the treatment
protocols these children are
Of course, Make-A-Wish
NJ couldn’t turn Micaela into
a surgeon, but it was able to
expose her to that world at the
Texas Heart Institute (THI) in
Houston, Texas. For an entire
week, Micaela shadowed Dr. Ourania Preventza,
attending cardiothoracic surgeon at THI. Mi-
caela observed six surgeries, visited the research
labs, and met other specialists.
“One word for that whole week is gratitude,”
says her mother, Lily.
This year, Make-A-Wish NJ aims to bring the
same kind of experience to at least 600 of New Jersey’s critically ill children. —Dominique McIndoe
To fulfill life-changing
wishes for children
battling critical illnesses in the Garden
national charity was
founded in 1980; the
New Jersey chapter
began in 1983.
granted 560 wishes in
the most recent fiscal
year; since inception,
it has brought hope,
strength and joy to
more than 10,000
seriously ill children.
HOW TO HELP
To make a donation,
sponsor a child, or
609-371-9474, or visit
June 13: Make-A-Wish Gala, Samuel
& Josephine Plumeri
Wishing Place, Monroe Township.