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Coronavirus: Make-A-Wish Foundation pauses wish trips, asks community to send messages of hope

"Our kids are so medically fragile already, and they're already experiencing economic hardships. COVID is a double whammy for them," said a local Make-A-Wish CEO.

AUSTIN, Texas — The Make-A-Wish Foundation has hit pause on its wish-granting because of travel restrictions and medical concerns during the coronavirus outbreak. 

The COVID-19 crisis has affected dozens of kids, and Make-A-Wish wants the community to send their wish kids uplifting messages.

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"Our kids are so medically fragile already, and they're already experiencing economic hardships. So, COVID is a double whammy for them," said Kathrin Brewer, Make-A-Wish Central and South Texas president and CEO. "Half of our kids go to this beautiful place called 'Give Kids the World' near Disney World. They get to go to Disney World for a few days and Universal Studios and that's what they're missing right now because everything's been shut down."

Make-A-Wish officials said 77% of wishes involve travel. 970 wishes nationwide and 91 wishes through Make-A-Wish Central and South Texas were immediately impacted by the travel restrictions, with additional wishes being impacted every day.

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Brewer said the cancellations inspired Make-A-Wish to create "Messages of Hope," which is an initiative inspired to bring hope and joy to Make-A-Wish kids during these unpredictable times. 

"The important thing to realize about wishes is they actually provide a change in our emotional landscape, which helps us become healthier," said Brewer. 

"As scary as this time is for everyone. I think it's especially scary for medical kiddos," said Jessica Benesch, mother of 17-year-old Make-A-Wish kid Sam Benesch.

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The Benesch family got their son's wish granted when he was four years old. Sam Benesch said he remembers the trip to Florida vividly. 

"Make-A-Wish, that trip, they treated me like an MVP. It was magical every moment of it," said Sam Benesch. 

The Benesch's want Make-A-Wish kids to know they understand why the trip is so important, but it'll be OK. 

"The wish trip taught us to think outside the box and to make things happen and to re-prioritize our family and not just his medical condition," said Jessica Benesch. 

Sam Benesch and his family have also raised money through their Westlake for Wishes foundation. They've raised enough money to grant three wishes for kids and plan to continue to fundraise after the coronavirus stops spreading. 

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"Obviously, it's been cut short this year, but we're hopeful that we can continue in the summer, or we'll come back just as strong next year," said Sam Benesch.

Make-A-Wish Central & South Texas said in a press release the organization knows that the anticipation of a wish-come-true can be a powerful motivator for wish kids to face and overcome the challenges in their way. 

Through “Messages of Hope,” Make-A-Wish wants the community to spread hope and anticipation by writing, recording or photographing themselves delivering messages of encouragement for wish kids waiting for wishes impacted by COVID-19.

Before sharing their messages, participants may consider a donation at www.cstx.wish.org to prepare Make-A-Wish to grant the unprecedented number of pending wishes once normal operations resume. 

The last step is to post the messages to any social media channel along with the tag "@MakeAWishCSTX" and the hashtag "#WishesAreWaiting." 

Two or more friends should also be tagged and challenged because the more messages shared, the greater the impact on wish kids and their families.

To learn more and help, visit www.cstx.wish.org. For more information on Westlake for Wishes, visit http://westlakeforwishes.com/ or on Facebook (Westlake for Wishes) and Instagram (@westlakeforwishes). 

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