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Make-A-Wish throws Christmas party for Chambersburg area children

December 05, 2007|By ASHLEY HARTMAN

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Nineteen children who are part of the Franklin County Make-A-Wish Foundation had a chance to forget about their illnesses for a few hours Saturday, when the foundation threw them and their families a Christmas party.

"It was a resounding success," said Donna Steiner, chairwoman of the party, which the Franklin County Make-A-Wish Foundation has been hosting for four years.

"It's just an opportunity for families with children with special needs to get together and see that there are other people in (their) shoes," Steiner said. "The children get to see other children who are also living with life-threatening illnesses and learn that (they are) not alone in this struggle."

Decorated with two Christmas trees, wreaths and white lights all around, the party was held at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Garfield Street in Chambersburg and about 80 people attended, Steiner said. Gifts were purchased for 45 children, including the Make-a-Wish Foundation children and their siblings.

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"Everything was donated, the money for gifts, the site was donated, the food, Santa Claus - there was no cost to anybody," Steiner said.

The party was hosted through a combined effort of the Knights of Columbus in Chambersburg, which cooked the food and provided the hall for the party, and the Columbian Ladies group, which purchased the food, served it and decorated the hall.

The party featured crafts, photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus, Dwayne Izer as Dr. Bean, a magician from Greencastle, singing from Make-A-Wish Foundation child Rachael Junkins, 14, of Dry Run, Pa., door prizes and gifts.

"(The kids) really got a charge out of the entertainment and they certainly enjoy just being able to do crafts," Steiner said. "The kids love (Dr. Bean) - he's hysterical."

A photographer from Shippensburg, Pa., was on hand to take photos of the Make-a-Wish Foundation children and their families with Santa and Mrs. Claus. The photos were developed at the party.

Another special part of the party was when the family of Damon Bryan, 6, a disabled child from Shippensburg, presented the Make-a-Wish Foundation with a $500 donation that they raised through a motorcycle ride they sponsor each year.

The party, which could have cost $2,500 to $3,000, was fully funded through donations from Penn National Outreach in Mont Alto, Pa., the Cumberland Valley Dental Society and part of the proceeds from a golf tournament last summer that was put together by Rich Hogan, director of golf at Whitetail Golf Resort in Mercersburg, Pa.

"Any money that is raised in the name of Make-a-Wish must be used to fund whatever the child wants to do. So whenever we want to do something extra like this, we have to raise money ourselves," Steiner said.

Gifts for the Make-a-Wish Foundation children and their siblings ranged from items such as a reading chair, MP3 players, DVDs and digital cameras.

"(The gifts are) as diverse as the children and the illness that they have," said Steiner, explaining that when invitations to the party went out in mid-October, families were asked to send in gift ideas for their children.

Additionally, all of the children were able to select from knitted items, such as hats, gloves and scarves that were handmade by a group of women from Penn National Outreach, and hung from one of the Christmas trees.

"Each year, it gets better and better," Steiner said. "It's just the thank you from the parents that makes you want to do it each year."

The children ranged in age from 4 to 15, although children as young as 2 1/2 can have their wishes granted through the foundation.

"You don't have to be terminally ill, but you have to have a life-threatening illness" to qualify for the Make-a-Wish Foundation, Steiner said.

"Just to give these families who already are operating under a lot of medical pressure, under a lot of financial pressure, the opportunity to have a fun afternoon, and if we can in some small way take their mind off the illness their child is suffering, then we feel we've accomplished our goal," Steiner said.

The Franklin County Make-A-Wish Foundation functions under the regional office in York Pa., which also serves, Adams, York, Bedford and Fulton Counties.

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