The walls of the Michigan League Friday night were adorned with cut-out stars detailed with images and wishes of hope, inspiration – and above all – a cure for cancer.
Crafted by young patients of the University’s Childhood Cancer Program, wishes for “No more pokes” and magical medicines were just a sampling of the hope that brought more than 270 donors who gathered for the first “Words for a Wish and a Cure” charity gala organized by the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Michigan chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“I wish for a magical medicine that will cure everyone in the world who is sick,” read one patient’s wish.
“It’s an absolutely dreadful situation when a young child suffers from a serious disease,” said Valerie Castle, co-director of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.
The $150-a-plate event raised approximately $106,000 through ticket sales, corporate sponsors and private donors. The proceeds will go toward the Make-A-Wish Foundation and research funding for neuroblastoma, the most common solid tumor disease that develops in children. Even after a bone marrow transplant, less than 10 percent survive.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Michigan has granted wishes to children across the state who have life-threatening diseases. Since 1984, more than 3,300 wishes have become a reality.
“When you’re a child you want to believe that the world can give you everything, so we give them something to look forward to, to help them get through the painful stuff,” Castle said. “We will work with them in the most compassionate way possible.”
Seven-year-old Megan Gruenberg was diagnosed with neuroblastoma when she was two. After her parents contacted the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a special trip to Walt Disney World was made possible.
“We were so grateful that an organization would go to such great lengths … that they would help people that they don’t even know,” Megan’s mother Jill Gruenberg said.
The keynote speaker of the evening was Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney. Her speech touched upon the importance of educating children in the history of the U.S. which is manifest in her recently published book, “America: A Patriotic Primer.” Net proceeds from the book will be donated to various charities.
“We need to understand the crucial role knowledge plays to a life of leadership,” Cheney said.
Cheney’s address was followed by performances by Jessica Waldron, whose wish to record a CD was made possible by the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Grammy Award-winning musical group The Chieftans.
The University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center was established in 1986 and ranks among the top 10 in the nation. In addition, its Children’s Cancer Program is the largest in Michigan.
Castle said that not many people are aware of the Cancer Center’s standing as one of the leading cancer care facilities in the country.
She added that the fundraiser was an opportunity to raise awareness in Ann Arbor and the University community.