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The Make-A-Wish Foundation® is the largest and most respected wish-granting organization in the world. It exists for one purpose: to fulfill the special wishes of children under the age of 18 who have life-threatening illnesses. The foundation is a nonprofit, privately funded organization composed of more than 11,000 volunteers in 82 chapters in the United States and its territories. In addition, Make-A-Wish Foundation® International has 13 affiliates in other nations. Volunteers around the world have fulfilled more than 50,000 wishes since the first Make-A-Wish® chapter was founded in 1980.


PHOENIX, August 19, 1997—What child doesn't’t dream of being a cowboy? A four-year old boy named Aaron will get the chance to make that dream a reality, and at the same time help the Make-A-Wish Foundation® mark an important milestone—its 50,000th wish.

Aaron has sickle cell anemia, a chronic, often painful blood disease which can be life-threatening if not properly managed. When Aaron spends a week as a cowboy on a working Montana ranch next week, he becomes the 50,000th child to have a wish fulfilled through Make-A-Wish, the world’s largest wish-granting organization.

Like many little boys his age, Aaron loves horses and wants to be a cowboy. "I don’t know where he gets it," smiles his mom, Judith. "He’s just always loved horses. He went to a birthday party recently where they had a pony and we could not’t get him to come down!" Thanks to the Greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation in California, Aaron’s wish is about to come true.

On Wednesday, August 27th, Aaron will leave his hometown of San Francisco to head to his wish location of Dillon, Montana. Aaron’s festive sendoff at the San Francisco airport will include balloons, banners, and even some down-home western music to put him in the mood for his Montana arrival. Once in Dillon, Aaron will spend five adventure-packed days on the Selkirk ranch learning how to be a real cowboy. Selkirk ranch is owned by the Zenchiku Land & Livestock company and is an 88,000-acre working ranch.

On the night of his arrival, Aaron will be the honored guest at a welcoming Bar-B-Que. On Thursday, he will be outfitted in a complete new set of "cowboy clothes," just in time to be introduced to his own ranch horse. He will spend the next few days getting the feel of the saddle, eating cowboy grub around a campfire, attending a county fair, riding in a Labor Day parade--and just enjoying cowboy life under that big Montana sky.

What makes Aaron’s dream even more special is that it marks the 50,000th time the Make-A-Wish foundation of America has helped grant the wish of a child with a serious illness.

"Having Aaron selected as the 50,000th wish child is incredible," says Judith, a single mother currently earning her Master’s Degree in early childhood education. "It makes this experience all the more significant." And since Judith is usually the one who ends up being Aaron’s "horse," she’s even more excited.

Founded in 1980, Make-A-Wish was inspired by the love that friends and relatives had for a 7-year old boy named Chris. Chris was dying of leukemia but dreamed of becoming a police officer for a day. With the help of some Arizona Department of Public Safety officers, Chris’ wish was granted. The officers swore him in as an honorary DPS officer—complete with custom-made uniform, helmet, and the personal badge of the DPS commandant. Then, zipping around on his own, junior-sized police motorcycle, Chris even qualified for his Highway Patrol wings.

Chris died four days after his wish was granted. But his legacy has lived on in the 50,000 wishes that have come since. And it will continue to live on in countless dreams to come. With 82 chapters nationwide, Make-A-Wish is dedicated to its mission of granting wishes to children under 18 who have life-threatening illnesses. A volunteer-based organization, Make-A-Wish granted 6,490 wishes in 1996 alone.

Fifty-thousand wishes. 50,000 dreams come true. "We feel that’s an incredible achievement for an organization that’s only 17-years old," says Herb Paine, President and CEO of Make-A-Wish. "This milestone is one of many important accomplishments propelling us into the 21st century, and paves the way for our 20th anniversary celebration coming up in the year 2000."

In the meantime, a little boy named Aaron will live out a dream not all that different from that of Chris, the first Make-A-Wish child. "It’s a wish born of a desire to be something—or someone—special," says Paine. "The kind of wish that leads us to remember our own childhood dreams. It helps us remember the milestones that have brought us to where we are today not only at Make-A-Wish, but in our own lives."

Make-A-Wish Foundation® of America · 100 W. Clarendon, Suite 2200 · Phoenix, AZ 85013-3518

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