Last month, I had the opportunity to attend and photograph Starfishes and Wishes, a gala for the Make A Wish Foundation at the Ritz in Naples FL. Not only did it offer all that comes with a visit to Florida in the winter, but the event itself was inspiring, fun, and full of energy and passion.
Most have heard of Make A Wish, a non profit with a focus on granting wishes to critically ill children, impacting them and their families in the most difficult time of their lives. Often, the wish is the best moment of their shortened lives, but then so many other times, they go on to heal and live long and healthy lives, arguably partly because the wish gives them the hope and the inspiration they need to keep fighting.
This Gala is one of the biggest events of the year, and all of the funds raised contribute to furthering the mission. There was a huge silent auction, which included a few art pieces from some of the “wish kids”, and a limited live auction including a Python Hunt from Amy Siewe, and a stay in Hawaii. The most amazing part of the live auction though, was the bidding to donate at varying amounts to the cause. One wish, defined as $6000, will meet the needs of one family, and those in attendance were enthusiastic to support the mission. In a matter of 20 minutes, the event raised over $500,000. I was grateful to be a part of it.
Additionally, three “wish kids” took a turn to share their stories about their experience and the impact it made on their lives and the lives of their families. All of them worked through their illness, going on to live healthy and full lives. Besides being grateful to Make A Wish, they seem to be grateful in general, having faced such impossible circumstances at a young age and realizing how blessed they are to be here.
The chair for the event, Lianne Caruso, did a fabulous job of pulling together this annual event, and welcomes anyone that would like to take part in years to come, whether by attending, or donating. There will always be hardship in this life, and this organization is passionate about bringing joy and inspiration in the face of it.