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We Went Behind the Scenes of Planning a Make-A-Wish Trip

Aug. 30, 2019
6 min read
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Think about how much goes into planning a big family vacation. Now, multiply that by involving lots of additional partners and stakeholders; addressing special medical needs; and being mindful of time constraints around treatments, illnesses and more.

That's the reality for every one of the thousands of Make-A-Wish trips that are granted each and every year.

TPG has been a proud partner of Make-A-Wish for more than three years, and we regularly team up with them on charitable projects (think: the epic giveaway of 1 million United Airlines miles).

As you probably know, Make-A-Wish grants wishes for children with critical illnesses all over the country. About 77% of the wishes include travel, making it one of Make-A-Wish's largest expenses. Here's what goes into these trips, what it is like to take one and how you can help.

It Takes a Village to Make a Wish Trip Happen

As you might imagine, it takes a village to make a wish trip happen -- wish kids and their families, volunteers and Make-A-Wish employees — including Make-A-Wish America (the national office); the child's originating chapter (the chapter that serves the region where he or she lives); and the wish trip's assisting chapter (the chapter that serves where he or she is going) are all involved. And that doesn't even include mention of the local and national corporate donors, individual donors and more who provide the resources to make it all happen.

Some common steps that go into creating a wish trip include:

  • Identifying the child and the wish by working with local volunteers, known as "wish granters."
  • Medical wish clearance to make sure that travel is appropriate and safe for the wish child, as well as identifying if any medical equipment is required.
  • Partnering with the family to identify wish-trip dates, as well as coordinating air travel by using either donated points, miles or cash donations.
  • Coordinating accommodations for the wish kid and all wish-trip participants after the flights are booked. Make-A-Wish supporters donate rooms, hotel points and/or dollars.
  • Depending on where the wish child is going, a car rental may be needed.
  • Sharing a wish-trip itinerary with the family. Typically, this happens at a wish send-off party at which the child finds out all the details of his or her upcoming trip.
  • Putting together a wish packet that includes money to cover expenses, typically raised from individual and corporate donors so that there is no financial burden on the family.
  • Enhancing the trip, including potential discounts and/or free experiences, an airport send-off and greeting and even the occasional accommodation surprises — decorations, snacks and more.

Like we said: It takes a village.

Give Kids the World where many Make-A-Wish children stay while visiting Florida (Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

The Effort Is Worth It for Wish Kids

But don't just take it from us. Take it from Josephine, a 14-year-old girl with a neuromuscular disorder who went to Alaska in January of this year. Thanks to Make-A-Wish, she saw the Northern Lights for the first time — an experience that she calls "truly spectacular."

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"I picked to go to Alaska," she said, "because I wanted to go to a place I could never go to under normal circumstances. Due to the difficult mobility and needed accommodations for travel, it would be hard for me to go to Alaska ... I've traveled to the desert, I've traveled up to the mountains but I never had [an] experience [like the] unique bone-chilling weather in Alaska! An up-close and personal view of the beautiful snowflakes falling from the sky! The soft, plush-like snow everywhere. And when will one have the chance to go and see the Northern Lights? Trust me, this is a truly once-in-a-life time experience. During this trip it felt as though anything was possible."

(Photo courtesy of Make A Wish)
(Photo by Sean Kurdziolek)

Thanks to the generosity of national and local travel donors, Josephine and her family were able to stay at Pike's Waterfront Lodge in Fairbanks, Alaska. They visited the Museum of the North, tried local foods and, of course, took a Northern Lights Tour.

"This trip opened up a whole new world for me," Josephine said, "to explore with my family without worrying about any difficulties I may force on them during the travel. I can cruise on an airplane and see the wide blue sky just like any other kid!"

(Photo courtesy of Make A Wish)
(Photo by Sean Kurdziolek)

Josephine's story is heartwarming, but the reality is that Make-A-Wish is "only able to grant wishes for one out of every two eligible children," according to Richard K. Davis, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish America. "Travel wishes are waiting — and their fulfillment is dependent on the ongoing generosity of individual and corporate donors who contribute their unused airline miles, expiring travel points and dollars.”

How You Can Help

That's exactly where you come in. Make-A-Wish needs your help so that other children can have incredible experiences. The organization needs close to 3 billion airline miles and points to cover every travel wish each year. TPG himself doesn't have that many, so this is something that, again, requires a huge team effort.

Those willing to spare any American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and JetBlue miles can donate them quickly and easily at Make-A-Wish tells TPG that, once miles are donated to the organization, they never expire. As an added perk to the one doing the donating, know that in some cases, donating miles can even keep the rest of your own miles from expiring by creating activity in your frequent flyer account.

You can donate your points and miles directly to Make-A-Wish here. And of course, cash is also always appreciated by the organization to make travel dreams come true. (Here are the best credit cards to use for charitable donations.)

Featured image by muscular dystrophy