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Christmas comes a little early for Pa. 'wish kids'

December 07, 2008|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - Christmas came early for 18 families in Franklin County who gathered Saturday at the Knights of Columbus in Chambersburg to celebrate the season of giving and the gift of one more year with their "wish kid."

All of the children invited to the Christmas Party battle a life-threatening medical condition and have been sponsored by the Make-A-Wish Foundation as "wish kids."

Together with the siblings and parents who often take a back seat to their wish child's disease, the families enjoyed a free meal made by the Columbia Ladies, entertainment from Tom Jolin, gifts from the volunteers and sponsors, and time with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

"This is Christmas," volunteer JoAnn Kohler said. "This is what this holiday is about."

Ann Waltman, regional manager for Make-A-Wish Foundation, said the party brings together families who are struggling with many of the same challenges to socialize at the holidays.

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Being a parent of a "wish kid" is a full-time job, said Robin Galindo of Chambersburg.

Galindo's two sons, 17-year-old twins Scott and Joey, are both "wish kids," and getting to spend time with the volunteers of Make-A-Wish was a gift, she said.

"It is like one big family," she said. "They do so much for the kids ... everyone is willing to help."

Ellen Palmer, Franklin County liason to Make-A-Wish, said it has been about 15 years since the first Christmas party, and each year it gets better and better.

Waltman explained that all money raised by the Make-A-Wish Foundation goes to fulfilling wishes for the children, so extras, like the party, come with the generosity of many community sponsors.

"If not for the Cumberland Valley Dental Society, the Penn National Outreach, the Franklin County Golf Tournament, Needlework Outreach, the Knights of Columbus and the Columbia Ladies, Tom Jolin and Ron Cressler, none of this could have happened today," she said.

For the children like 7-year-old Michael Woods, the foundation has brought so much joy into life.

"Its fun," he said of the party. "I asked Santa for a new Nerf gun game."

Palmer said the volunteers did their best to give the children at least one gift from their list.

But no matter what came wrapped from Santa on Saturday, it could not top the gift of granting a wish, said Rachel Hess, whose 4-year-old son, Jason David Hess, got his wish in September in the form of a shopping spree.

"These people and this foundation have been such a blessing," she said. "My son should not be alive, but Jason means healer and David means beloved, so I think the Beloved Healer is looking out for my son and all these children."

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