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UC helps bring children’s wishes to life

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In addition to individual charitable endeavors, UC’s campuses are making dreams come true by partnering with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a nationwide nonprofit that brings joy and hope to children battling critical illness. Here, we look at some of the recent memorable experiences that UC has helped to create.

Makayla: Creating a pop star

Being discovered as a budding vocalist is no easy feat — and that’s even truer if you’re recovering from a nerve tissue tumor, like 14-year-old Makayla Abbe. A staff favorite at the UC Davis Children’s Hospital, where she was treated, Abbe is a talented musician with a passion for pop music.

This July, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, UC Davis and several community partners came together to make her wish come true: Abbe became a pop star. She starred in a lively music video singing her chosen song, “Best Time Ever,” including local children and two fellow Wish Kids. A live audience attended the video screening at Goodnight Auditorium in the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, where Abbe signed autographs, participated in a Q&A session with her fans and navigated the paparazzi.

Watch the music video for “Best Time Ever”!

Burhanuddin: Student for a day

Make-A-Wish recipient Burhanuddin*, 16, has a life-threatening respiratory condition. But, that hasn’t stopped his future aspirations; in particular, his goal to one day attend his dream school, UC San Diego. In April 2018, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and UC San Diego united to make his wish come true: Along with his family, he experienced a day in the life of a UC San Diego student.

Upon Burhanuddin’s arrival, students danced in front of a digital banner at Price Student Plaza, welcoming him to campus. He then toured the campus, painting at the Sustainability Resource Center, seeing an installation at the Stuart Collection, checking out the novel EnVision Maker Studio and more. Along the way, he even met beloved campus mascot King Triton!

Watch a video of Burhanuddin’s day.

Joselin: Part of the team

When Joselin Palma was selected to receive the 10,000th wish granted by Make-A-Wish of Greater Los Angeles, she knew exactly what she wanted: To be a UCLA gymnast. The 6-year-old gymnast has a gastrointestinal disorder that requires her to wear a medical device for up to eight hours each day, but that hasn’t slowed her down. In February 2019, She showed up ready and thrilled to practice beside the award-winning team, which includes Olympic gold medalists and other champions.

“She was doing some skin-the-cats on the bar, some kicks on the beam and she even climbed the rope, which is crazy!” an impressed Kyla Ross, a 2012 Olympic gold medalist, told the UCLA newsroom. “It’s just super inspiring to see her want to climb all these obstacles and to see how through all the obstacles in her life, she still loves and is enjoying gymnastics.”

See Joselin’s “perfect 10” practice.

Saul and Carlo: Giving in return

With a virtually endless array of opportunities to make their wildest dreams come to life, it may be surprising to learn that some of the young Make-A-Wish recipients choose to give back in return.

Among these is 18-year-old Saul Dominguez, who was diagnosed with a giant cell tumor in his left hip. He opted to direct his wish towards improving the experience of other child and teen cancer patients at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Pediatric Infusion Center. In June 2019, Make-A-Wish provided more than $8,000 worth of upgrades to the center — including informational literature, staff photos, games and device charging.

Watch a video about Dominguez’s wish.

“The goal of all of our wishes is to improve the health and happiness of the wish kid and their families,” Betsy Biern, CEO of Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area, told UC Davis Health. “Saul’s ‘wish to give back’ is particularly special because it will also positively impact the lives of other critically ill children, their families, and their care providers. His generosity is inspiring to me and the rest of our team.”

If this generosity seems surprising, consider that this is the second young UC Davis Health patient who decided to give back this past summer. Less than a month after Dominguez’s wish became a reality, 16-year-old Carlo Sandoval — who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and cerebral palsy as a child, and recently diagnosed with acute lymphoplastic leukemia — also decided to give back. His wish was for a VECTA calming station, which helps kids with autism and other neurodevelopmental disabilities cope during difficult procedures, like blood draws.

Although Sandoval’s family was proud of his decision, his mother confided to UC Davis Health that charity has long been a passion for her son: “One year, he asked for money for his birthday. He used it to purchase socks and pizza for the homeless.”

“I have a big heart, and I feel like more people are in need of more things than me,” Sandoval said.

Watch a video of his wish presentation.

A long history of giving back

These are some of the more recent stories of UC’s participation in touching Make-A-Wish recipients, but this partnership has been enduring. It has touched many members of the UC community — even recently deceased dolphin Primo of the Long Marine Lab at UC Santa Cruz.

Two more great stories from the past: In August, 2008, 13-year-old David Godfrey charmed Berkeley Lab scientists. His wish was to share ideas around sustainability with some of the best scientists in the world. And, in 2004, UCSF Children’s Hospital partnered with the Greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation and LucasArts to help Ben Duskin achieve his dream. The 9-year-old leukemia patient created a video game that allowed kids to virtually fight cancer.

Have another Make-A-Wish story to share from your UC campus? Email ucnetwork@universityofcalifornia.edu.

* Last name omitted

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