Sydney, 11, loves animals.
“In particular, giraffes and lemurs are her two favorites,” her dad says with a chuckle.
Sydney is living with cystic fibrosis, a lifelong respiratory condition which affects about one in 4,000 children in Canada. Her one wish was to visit the San Diego Zoo. And Western’s Dream Team saw to it that that wish came true.
Sponsored by the Faculty of Health Sciences Student Council, the Dream Team partners with the southwestern Ontario chapter of Make-A-Wish Foundation to raise money for one child with a life-threatening illness. They have granted 1,100 wishes since 1986
The Dream Team raises money in a number of ways. Last fall, they created a ‘wish wall’ in the University Community Centre (UCC) decorated with the wishes of Western students.
“All the proceeds go towards funding the wish of our child. It’s all about interacting with the students and raising awareness,” said Anusha Kalaichelvan, 20, director of the Dream Team.
Creative projects like last year’s Yoga Rave are ways the organization gets students involved. In an event that took over the UCC, students paid to participate in an exciting and unconventional yoga class featuring strobe lights and music.
Events like these raise more than just money.
“It was something we could get all the students and faculty behind,” said Thomas Cheung, who created the Dream Team as a project for a palliative care class in the fourth year of his undergraduate degree in 2007. “It’s not only about fundraising, but also about getting out into the Western and London community and letting people know these services are available.”
Cheung still works closely with the organization as a wish-granter who meets with families and children. He said the journey has been a learning process that has been rewarding.
“You can see the impact on the children who spend most of their young life in a hospital,” he said. “It’s important to give them the opportunity to just be a kid.”
The Dream Team witnessed this impact when they met Kiara, who the Dream Team raised $1,800 dollars toward sending to Hawaii. Dream Team member Stephanie Rapcewicz remembers it well.
“At one point her mom was so overwhelmed that she couldn’t speak. I cried. It was so motivating and emotional,” the 21-year-old said.
Earlier this month, Sydney was sent on a zoo-themed scavenger hunt to learn her wish would be granted.
Kalaichelvan said these first-hand accounts have made the Dream Team members realize how important their work is.
“They really appreciate everything you do. It’s inspiring to see the return of your work. That’s why I got involved with this foundation.”