Ask anybody who works for the Make-A-Wish Foundation in Colorado about the Highlands Ranch school, and they will likely tell you the Jaguars are already there.
For the second straight year Rock Canyon set a statewide record for student fundraising, this time raising $44,483 in one week as part of the Make-A-Wish Colorado Kids for Wish Kids program – enough to grant nine wishes.
“It was simply just an idea from one of our students and we went for it,” said Hartline, the student council adviser and a social studies teacher at the school. “We are just really lucky that we have a community that supports this, because it is not just the kids, it’s their parents, it’s their siblings and it’s really just a neat organization to be a part of. When we get to be just one little part of a kid’s wish it’s an honor for us and we love it a lot.”
The families and the kids love it a whole lot too.
Joseph Wren, 6, was born with Prune Belly Syndrome, a rare birth defect that affects about one in 40,000 births. Joseph, who has been tube-fed his whole life and is in therapy six times a week, was also born with kidney failure. He has spent much of his life being shuttled between his Littleton home and Children’s Hospital in Denver.
“About half of those born with Prune Belly Syndrome don’t survive past their second or third year,” explained his mother, Sherie Wren. “He’s lucky, it’s pretty cool.”
According to Sherie, the Wren family wanted to get involved with Make-A-Wish as soon as Joseph was healthy enough and old enough to remember. After they let a social worker at Children’s know they were ready to do it, the wheels were in motion and within a month to make Joseph’s wish of going to Disney World came true.
It may not have happened so fast if it wasn’t for the Colorado Kids for Wish Kids program, however.
“Make-A-Wish was incredible, very, very generous,” she said, adding that in addition to Disney the family got to visit Sea World and Universal Studios while on their trip.
“We hope we will be able to contribute our time more, when Joseph gets a little older and healthier and give back however we can, because it was truly a once in a lifetime vacation for us,” Wren added.
Rock Canyon junior-to-be Erin McClarie also plans to contribute more to Make-A-Wish in the future.
“It is just such a great feeling to know that you have helped these kids achieve their goal of going somewhere,” McClarie said. “It’s a good experience to get to do this and to get to meet these kids and help them out. It’s really touching.”
According to fellow junior-to-be Eli Hirsch the student council organizes everything from dodge ball and basketball tournaments to fundraising nights at local restaurants and also sells what are known as wish kits – which include t-shirts and coupons to restaurants that support the project – to students and neighbors to raise the money.
By raising more money than any other high school in the state, Rock Canyon was awarded by being able to send a large amount of its student body to Elitch Garden on June 20, where the park – for the sixth consecutive year – gave away 3,700 tickets to the top fundraising schools and a number of Make-A-Wish families.
“We do it as an incentive for the schools to raise money,” said Tracy Durham, director of marketing at Elitch Gardens, adding that they give the tickets to the top high school, middle school and elementary school. “It’s a perfect fit for us really, it’s about kids, for kids, and that’s what we do. … They are a great organization.”
According to Durham, Make-A-Wish Colorado had 80 schools participate in the challenge, granting 240 wishes directly.
“They change our lives like crazy,” said Rock Canyon senior-to-be Casey Bergeron of the wish kids. “It’s kind of hard to explain to people how they do but it’s really a touching moment when we get to meet them.”
And as this three-year-old tradition continues to mature at Rock Canyon, one can only begin to think how many more lives will be touched in the future.