Monday, June 18 , 2018, 6:34 am | Fair 50º


Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties in Need of Frequent Flier Miles; ‘Pizza Girl’ Named Wish Kid Ambassador

Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties is asking people to donate frequent flier miles to help grant wishes as part of its 2014 Wishes In Flight Campaign with a goal of collecting 1 million miles. To date, 250,000 miles have been collected, with 6,000 miles coming from Santa Barbara County.

Three-year-old Hazel, who lives with stage 3 neuroblastoma, is the official Wish Kid Ambassador for the 2014 Wishes in Flight campaign. (Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties photo)

Click here to donate, or call 805.676.9474 x4.

Currently, 12 Santa Barbara County children with life-threatening medical conditions are awaiting wishes. Some of those wishes, including a wish for a cruise and one to meet a favorite music group, will require air travel; 63 percent of all Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties wishes involve air travel.

Locally, 8 million miles are needed annually to grant wishes. Less than 2 million are donated each year, making airline tickets the most avoidable but significant expense for the local chapter. Currently the local Make-A-Wish chapter has all but depleted its donated airline miles bank, and is paying rack rate for tickets.

Some estimates show there are more than 16 trillion frequent flier miles that go unused each year, and some 25 percent of people let their miles expire or at the last minute use miles for magazine subscriptions or a one-time upgrade. In contrast, the impact of a wish can last a lifetime.

Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties is encouraging the donation of airline miles now to prepare for summer, the busiest wish granting season. Individuals who fly on Delta, United and US Airways can easily donate frequent flier miles, in just a few easy steps, by clicking here. The number of miles an individual can donate can range from a few thousand miles to millions. Donated miles never expire and are never used for anything other than wish travel. Minimum donations depend on the airline. A donation of miles counts as “activity” for the donor. With most airlines this donation will reset the clock for the use of the remaining miles.

Three-year-old Hazel, who lives with stage 3 neuroblastoma and wishes to go to Florida to visit the theme parks, is the official Wish Kid Ambassador for the 2014 Wishes in Flight campaign. When the volunteer wish granter’s came to Hazel’s house to learn about her wish, Hazel’s parents asked how they could help make wishes come true for other kids, particularly, how they could help collect frequent flier miles.

Chapter CEO Shanna Wasson Taylor reached out to Hazel’s mom, Lauren, and the 2014 Wishes in Flight Campaign was born. Hazel is the face of the local campaign and has already helped raise awareness about the great need for donated airline miles through her many Facebook fans.

Hazel’s July 2013 request for pizza from the window of her hospital went viral. She became known as "the pizza girl" in the news worldwide and now has more Facebook fans than most local businesses! Many of these fans have shared the news about the Wishes in Flight Campaign on their own Facebook pages.

Medical professionals say wish experiences can improve children’s state of mind, make them more willing to comply with treatment requirements, and can even improve their physical health. Former wish kids say their wish experience improved their health and strength, gave them more confidence and the will to pursue more challenging life goals, made them more philanthropic and compassionate, and even helped save their life.

The efforts of Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties are part of a large-scale campaign being implemented by the 61 Make-A-Wish chapters nationwide. Throughout the month of April, radio and television on-air miles drives and corporate campaigns, bolstered by a national marketing initiative, will support the campaign. Nationally, Make-A-Wish chapters need a total of 2.5 billion airline miles each year to grant 10,000 wishes that involve travel.

“The Make-A-Wish Foundation arranges travel for wish kids to reach their wish destinations, whether it’s to meet a celebrity, go to their favorite theme park or reconnect with a close friend who moved away,” Wasson Taylor said. “Donating unused airline miles is an easy way for supporters to help grant wishes like Hazel’s and give them an experience that improves the quality of life for them and their families.”

To donate Delta, US Airways, Continental, United or JetBlue frequent flyer miles to Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties, click here or call 805.676.9474 x4.

Make-A-Wish grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy. With a staff of only three and the help of more than 100 volunteers, the Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Tri-Counties has granted more than 1,200 special wishes to children in Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. If you want to refer a child to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, call 888.899.9474 (WISH). Donations may be sent to Make-A-Wish at 4222 Market St., Suite D, Ventura, CA 93003. To donate your vehicle, call 877.227.9474. Click here for more information on these or other ways to help.

Hazel was diagnosed in April 2013 with stage 3 neuroblastoma. She was referred to Make-A-Wish in August. We hope to have her at Disney this fall, after her 18-month treatment is complete. Click here to learn more about Hazel.

— Shanna Wasson Taylor is the CEO of Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties.

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