It isn’t any great secret why Make-A-Wish is so dear to my heart. My son, Stephen, was a Make-A-Wish kid who got to enjoy an incredible golf weekend at Pebble Beach golf course in Monterey, California. Although Stephen’s cancer took him from us less than a year later, those of us who got to share in Stephen’s wish fifteen years ago—parents, a brother, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins—still have vivid memories of that weekend.
My first experience with the Request-A-Thon was Stephen’s radio interview the year before when he was told his wish would be granted. This was in 1999 and it was ZPL’s second Request-A-Thon. Stephen was excited to be on the radio and was so grateful to learn his wish would be granted. The second Request-A-Thon I recall was in the ZPL studio with Stephen when he announced on the air to the entire ZPL listening audience that he had beaten me by 12 strokes at Pebble Beach. He took great delight in that. My next Request-A-Thon—and perhaps the toughest—was the following year. It was just a few months after Stephen had died and the entire Request-A-Thon was dedicated to his memory. Without our knowledge, the ZPL staff had pieced together audio clips of Stephen’s voice and clips from his funeral all to the background music of Enya’s Only Time. You can imagine my surprise—and pride—when I was driving to the radio station and heard the dedication and song in his memory. I almost had to pull my car over to the side of the road. That song has been played at every Request-A-Thon since and is simply referred to as Stephen’s song.
I am sometimes asked if it is difficult to talk on-air about Stephen. The answer is Yes and No. Yes, because, while it gets easier with time, I never know when I am going to get that dreaded lump in my throat. But No, because I genuinely love talking about Stephen. The only thing that beats talking about Stephen is listening to stories about him. I love it when his friends from high school call in and talk about him. I know Stephen had an impact on many people—family, friends, and people who didn’t know him personally but read about him in the local paper or otherwise learned of his 2 ½-year battle with cancer. While I know he touched many lives, it is nice to be reminded of it every so often. This will be the 15th Request-A-Thon since Stephen died. I am sure some of his friends will be calling in, and it will be good to hear from them.
I do what I can to help Make-A-Wish because I know what Stephen’s wish meant to him and what it continues to mean to those of us who got to share it with him. The truth is, no matter how much I give—in terms of money or time—I can never fully repay Make-A-Wish for giving him the greatest golf weekend of his young life and for giving the rest of Stephen’s family memories that will last a lifetime.
I am motivated to help Make-A-Wish for three simple reasons: love, appreciation, and hope. Love for my son. Appreciation for the staff, volunteers, and donors who made Stephen’s wish possible and who continue to make wishes possible. And hope that what I do will allow children like Stephen and families like mine to experience the same pure, unadulterated joy that Stephen’s wish brought.
I have watched the Request-A-Thon grow over the years. I am proud of Make-A-Wish as an organization and its tremendous staff and volunteers. I am proud of our Make-A-Wish kids; they are some of the most courageous and inspiring persons, regardless of age, you will ever meet. And I am proud of the ZPL listening audience for making the annual Request-A-Thon such a success and for setting new fundraising records almost every year. I can’t wait for this year’s Request-A-Thon. With everyone giving what they can, we will be able to grant more wishes and touch the lives of kids like Stephen who deserve a lot better than what life has dealt them.