Alex Zehr was granted his wish from the Make-A-Wish Southern Florida to go on a Disney cruise.

By Gwen Rollings

Wishes really do come true for some very special children. Make-A-Wish Southern Florida has been granting wishes since 1983 and now grants a wish every 14 hours to critically ill children. In its 36-year history, the organization has granted more than 11,000 wishes to Florida children.

The average cost for a wish is $8,000. Hoping to raise $150,000 for at least 18 more wishes is the goal of Walk For Wishes, a fundraiser taking place on the morning of Saturday, February 8 at Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park on 1001 N Blvd. in Tampa.

Walk For Wishes is family-friendly with a 1.3 mile route and is pet, stroller and wheelchair accessible with free parking. The event is powered by volunteers, companies, wish families, donors and friends, as well as by volunteers like Boy Scout Leader Don Campbell and members of Boy Scout Troop 61 (Presbyterian Church of Bloomingdale), who will participate in the walk and also create and stuff goody bags for other walkers.

It is also powered by companies like RIPA and Associates, which organized a friendly team competition among employees to see which team can raise the most money. The goal for RIPA this year is to raise enough to grant two wishes. John Flinn, vice president of RIPA, encourages this team rivalry because he believes in the Make-A-Wish philosophy that these life-changing wishes give children renewed energy and strength and can unite communities.

Flinn, who is also the chair of the Tampa Bay Advisory Board for Make-A-Wish, is especially excited about the Walk For Wishes and said, “This is the only event where participants will actually have an opportunity to meet with children who had their wishes come true. People can talk with these kids, their parents and siblings to find out how these wishes have impacted the lives of the recipients and their families.”

Families like those of Alex, whose wish was granted in 2017 to go on a Disney cruise, and his parents, who are now trained volunteer wish granters, help support the fundraiser.

Halley Stennes, special events coordinator, said, “This year, we are even celebrating a Wish Reveal, where a wish child will be brought upon the stage, and they will find out their wish is coming true.”

Do you want to transform lives, one wish at a time? There is still time to form a team, volunteer or donate. Registration times, walk start time and fee information can be found on walkforwishestampa.org.