PHOENIX — Make-A-Wish recently announced the recipients of several awards the organization presented at their 35th Anniversary Global Conference last week in Anaheim, Calif. The wish-granting organization took time to celebrate some of their most passionate and devoted ambassadors as part of their Evening of Excellence awards reception.
Make-A-Wish and Disney celebrated the 100,000th Disney-related wish during a special event emceed by Disney Channel “Girl Meets World” star Ben Savage, marking a momentous milestone in the organization’s 35-year relationship with Disney. Nearly 8,000 Disney wishes are granted globally every year — including experiences at Disney Parks, voyages on Disney Cruise Line, and visits to TV and movie sets. From the first wish 35 years ago to the 100,000th wish together, Disney and Make-A-Wish have brought comfort and smiles to wish kids and families when they need it most.
Each year, some of the world’s most famous celebrities provide inspiration to thousands of wish kids — meeting them on sets, at concerts, in their hospital rooms and everywhere in between. Make-A-Wish honors four of these celebrities annually with the Chris Greicius Celebrity Award. These celebrities, despite their hectic schedules and never-ending demands, have been dedicated to creating meaningful, life-changing experiences for wish kids. The 2015 Chris Greicius Celebrity Award recipients are:
- “Disney Channel”: For many wish kids, the characters they watched every day — passing the time in hospitals as they sit through treatments, recovering from surgery or waiting on test results — became their best friends, and the chance to meet them in person inspired them to keep fighting.
- Bruno Mars: The internationally known singer, songwriter, record producer, voice actor and choreographer has been granting wishes since 2012 for children all over the world. Bruno has quietly but enthusiastically brought joy to the lives of more than 16 children.
- Norman Reedus: Known most recently for his role in the mega hit, The Walking Dead, the long-time actor has granted 10 wishes, even flying out to meet a wish kid in the hospital with less than 24 hours’ notice. Norman also designated Make-A-Wish as the charity beneficiary of his OMAZE campaign.
- Shaun White: Born with the same congenital heart condition as many of our wish children, the highly decorated American professional snowboarder and skateboarder’s drive and life achievements speak to wish children in knowing that they, too, can do whatever they put their heart into. Shaun has granted 17 wishes, starting in 2008, and continued to grant wishes every year since.
Make-A-Wish also celebrated a historic milestone: the granting of 500 wishes by one individual. WWE Superstar John Cena started granting wishes in 2004, and this summer, granted his 500th wish. As his popularity as a WWE Superstar quickly soared, so did the number of wish requests. His motto, Never Give Up, serves as a rallying cry to hundreds of sick kids and a commitment that he’ll keeping fighting right alongside them.
Make-A-Wish honored ESPN’s “My Wish” series with the Douglas Kiker Award for excellence in media. The award, accepted by ESPN commentator Chris Connelly, recognizes individuals and media organizations for their extraordinary efforts to extend Make-A-Wish stories to the public. Since 2005, ESPN has told 53 stories of wish children and the athlete heroes who made their wishes come true through the ESPN “My Wish” and “Mi Deseo” series.
To cap off the festivities, Make-A-Wish presented The Walt Disney Company with the 100,000th Wish Award, which was accepted by Spencer Neumann, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts chief financial officer and executive vice president, Global Guest Experience, and Make-A-Wish America board member.
“A wish-come-true helps wish kids feel better and in some cases get better,” said Make-A-Wish America president and chief executive officer David Williams. “Corporations like Disney and WWE, celebrities, like John Cena, Bruno Mars, Shaun White and Norman Reedus, can make a very real, lasting impact on wish kids’ ability to handle and overcome the medical challenges they face.”