Wish Kid and Girl Scout troop donate merchandise to Make-A-Wish – Orange County Register
This Make-A-Wish journey began two years ago, with a girl named Hope.
Since then it has driven thousands of miles from Chino to Florida, then back to San Bernardino, Riverside and Orange counties, before ending on Friday May 21 at an office complex in Irvine. It was a journey fueled in part by Girl Scout cookies.
Hope Gackstetter, now 8, is one of the Girl Scouts of the San Gorgonio Troop # 1658 based in the Inland Empire. She lives in Chino; the rest of the troop are from Corona, Eastvale and Riverside.
Hope was born with complex congenital heart disease and has had three surgeries so far in her young life – at 1 week, 6 months and 3 years old. Other operations are likely in his future. She suffered a stroke during the second surgery; doctors believed the brain damage would leave her in a vegetative state. They were wrong. Through hard work, she learned to walk and run, with suspenders on her legs. She learns to speak more slowly.
Hope has been a Girl Scout for three years and is now a Brownie, the second level of achievement, for girls in second and third years.
“She’s really aptly named,” said her mother, Christina Gackstetter.
In April 2019, Hope and her family – mom, dad and older sister – took a dream trip to the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. It came courtesy of Make-A-Wish Orange County and the Inland Empire, a local chapter of the organization that grants wishes for critically ill children.
Hope loves everything Disney, especially the movie “Frozen”. During her recovery from her last operation, she watched the animated film about the journey of Princess Elsa and her younger sister, Anna, about 10 times a day, according to her mother’s estimate. So the Frozen attraction at Epcot Center on the trip to Disney World was Hope’s “pinnacle”, said her mother, a Hope revisited on multiple rides.
When she returned home and joined her Girl Scout troop, the rest of the girls, ages 5 to 11, saw how happy Hope was to have her wish come true. So they decided that they wanted to help the people who helped their friend and dedicated a portion of the proceeds from their next cookie sales campaign to purchase supplies for Make-A-Wish Orange County and Inland Empire.
Except, as with so many things, the coronavirus pandemic got in the way. The girls had to wait a year to implement their plan.
It has also been a long year for Make-A-Wish.
Throughout 2020 and early this year, many wishes had to be put on the back burner. More than two-thirds of the wishes granted by Make-A-Wish relate to air transport.
During the fiscal year ending in 2019, the Orange County and Inland Empire chapter granted 361 wishes. Since the start of the pandemic, the group has achieved 131 wishes, most of them – 93 – only when restrictions on COVID-19 began to ease. Currently, Make-A-Wish Orange County and Inland Empire have a combined waiting list with over 500 currently unfulfilled “to do” and “to do” wishes.
All travel-related wishes had stopped, but more recently Make-A-Wish took into consideration those that can be safely fulfilled within a five-hour drive, such as trips to the beach or to the mountains.
For example, a teenage girl from Indio was recently able to stay with her family in a rented house in the local mountains, where she learned to snowboard. Likewise, some of the easiest “must have” wishes – gifts made possible by fundraising and donations – have been granted. In one, a little boy from Orange was given a full-size arcade game, like the one he could play Dave ‘n Busters. And a teenager from San Bernardino got some DJ gear.
Responding to requests as quickly as possible is key to Make-A-Wish’s mission.
“Wishes are part of a treatment plan,” said Gloria Jetter Crockett, CEO and President of Make-A-Wish Orange County and the Inland Empire. “It helps the children and their families, while also boosting their morale.”
Most of the children served by Make-A-Wish reach adulthood, she said, dispelling the lingering public perception that Make-A-Wish only serves dying children.
A large number of children to whom wishes are granted end up paying it forward and inspiring their peers. A teenage girl from San Bernardino, for example, received a star treatment at Macy’s South Coast Plaza in December – limo ride, red carpet ride – on her way to a private makeup session. This helped prepare her for the YouTube videos she wanted to produce for other kids who, like her, are battling T cell lymphoma.
Then there was Hope and her Girl Scout troop. They’ve finally made their delivery: sunglasses, beach towels, children’s card games, headphones and earphones, Baskin Robbins gift cards, and two dozen boxes of cookies in eight varieties, including Thin Mints and S’mores.
The Girl Scouts let each troop keep $ 1 per box sold; the troop members then vote on how to spend it, said Cynthia Breunig, executive director of the San Gorgonio Council, headquartered in Redlands. A portion of their expenses must go to charity.
Troop # 1658 bought 160 items with their money by selling 416 boxes of cookies and money as part of the Girl Scouts “I Care” program. In total, that amounted to more than $ 500 in freebies, Breunig said.
Giving is good
Hope wore her blue Make-A-Wish t-shirt under her Brownie jacket. A large white knot, with Make-A-Wish printed on it, kept her black hair away from her face. What she couldn’t say about the family trip to Disney World, her mother replied.
“It sounds harmless, but it really gave us hope for a future of more good and good days,” said Christina Gackstetter.
In turn, their day of giving was a good, good one for the three daughters of Hope’s troupe who also made the trip to Irvine – sisters Annabel and Emma Borrayo, 6 and 9, and Makenna Lee, 8. , all from Riverside County.
“I like it,” Annabel said. “I like to give.”