CHILDREN’S charity Make-A-Wish UK, which helps fulfil the wishes of children living with a critical condition, raised over £250,000 at its annual fundraising Ball recently. The Ball took place to raise funds to support the tens of thousands of children who are missing out on the opportunity for life-changing wishes.
The Ball was hosted by television presenter and magician Stephen Mulhern and attended by Paralympian racing cyclist Jaco van Gass, and TV personality and former Strictly Come Dancing star, Saffron Barker.
The Ball involved an auction, with prizes such as a year’s worth of red carpet premieres, a signed Chelsea FC jersey, and a dream holiday to Puglia. Wishes were also offered for sponsorship, including a wish to have a bedroom makeover, to be a princess for a day, and a wish to design a Transformers figure.
This week, the charity revealed that it estimates it would cost in excess of £180 million to grant a wish for every child currently eligible in the UK – made up of a combination of donations and generous gifts in kind.
To raise awareness of the thousands of children waiting for wishes and drive donations to help fill the funding gap, Make-A-Wish UK unveiled a 15-foot-tall, 6,000-light-filled Wish Tree at the Ball. The tree will now go on tour to Luna Winter Cinema at Kensington Palace from this December and appear at various Network Rail stations to collect donations.
The Covid-19 pandemic, which has had a catastrophic impact on the charity’s ability to grant wishes due to restrictions, also resulted in a 40 per cent reduction in income across 2020/21, widening the funding gap and leaving thousands of critically ill children without the opportunity for a wish.
There are currently more than 60,000 children in the UK living with a critical condition and the charity has seen a spike in referrals over the past year, with the team having to close referrals within hours of opening some months due to the volume and speed at which they were receiving them.
The charity has also seen a significant increase in rush and priority wishes – urgent referrals for children who sadly have very little time left or are due to have a major medical procedure such as a transplant or chemotherapy. Before the pandemic, Make-A-Wish UK received around seven referrals per month, but that’s now more than doubled. The charity is expecting even more in the coming months following delayed diagnoses and the backlog faced by health services.
A diagnosis of a critical condition changes the lives of children and their families forever. For them, the joy of childhood is brought to an abrupt end, with treatment plans, hospital visits and sleepless nights taking over. A wish has the power to revive a childhood, bringing light and joy to these children and their families when they need it most, creating magical memories that last a lifetime.
As well as creating a lasting impact, the charity’s research has found that wishes provide respite and distraction from illness and worry, build togetherness, and reduce anxiety, all when needed most. However, currently, Make-A-Wish can’t be that light for everyone.
The data on the impact of the pandemic has been released as part of Make-A-Wish UK’s bold three-year campaign, Light up the Darkness, which aims to raise awareness and drive donations to support children living with a critical condition who are waiting for a wish.
Jason Suckley, Chief Executive of Make-A-Wish UK, said:
“We want to extend a huge thank you to all our supporters. £250,000 will go a long way in fulfilling the wishes we know children are currently waiting for.
“The last 18 months have been extremely challenging and we’re now at a crucial tipping point where we need the country’s support to deliver these wishes to provide light and joy to those who have had their childhoods stolen by the diagnosis of a critical condition. It was heart-breaking when we had to shut referrals over lockdown, and we never want to be in a position where we have to say no to a family and their child again.”
Light Up the Darkness is being supported by Make-A-Wish UK ambassador David Walliams, who donated his time to voice the campaign’s brand-new film running across television and digital.
David Walliams OBE, said:
“I am a proud supporter of Make-A-Wish UK and I have seen first-hand how a wish can bring light to children living in the darkness of a critical condition.
“Being a part of this new film has reminded me how the diagnosis of a critical condition can bring childhood to an abrupt end and that we need to do more to ensure every child who needs the light and joy of a wish receives one. We have the power to light up the darkness for these children and their families, so please support this amazing charity and donate if you can.”
For more information on the #LightUpTheDarkness campaign, please visit: www.make-a-wish.org.uk.