In the past two years, many of her coworkers now share her passion for Make-A-Wish Arizona and wish referrals have become a part of the clinic’s culture.
“When one of our patients goes through the referral process and qualifies for a wish, we try to plan some sort of celebration,” said Ashley, who has been with CRS for five years. “Two of our team members are volunteer wish granters and we’ve started to share stories of kids’ wish experiences in our staff meetings as well.”
Together, Ashley and her team have referred seven children for a wish.
“Our clinic serves children across Northern Arizona and many of these kids are economically challenged and face complex illnesses,” she said. “We have such a tight community where I live, I often see our kids at Little League games and walking through the grocery store, so it’s fun to be able to help them in this way and give them something that’s positive.”
Ashley believes a wish provides a sense of normalcy for kids and she’s observed changes in several of the patients after they return.
“Many of these families would never be able to go on a trip like this and Leanna experienced so many new things because of her wish to go to Disneyland,” Ashley said.
“Leanna had never been on an airplane before and she didn’t know what the ocean was; so this was her first time feeling the sand and the water. When she came back, Leanna was so full of excitement and she wore her Snow White crown and costume for two months,” she continued.
Another wish child who holds a special place in Ashley’s heart is 10-year-old Sylvi. While the anxiety of doctors accessing her port has always been a huge source of stress for Sylvi, she now uses the memories of her wish as a peaceful place to think about during treatment.
“Sylvi wished to stay in a treehouse in Maine because she loves nature and animals,” said Ashley. “She brought in thank you cards for us and it was so great to hear about the trip and how it was an educational experience for her.”
“The last time Sylvi was hospitalized she was much calmer,” said Sylvi’s mom, Blair. “I asked her what she was thinking about in that moment and she said, ‘I was imagining myself in the treehouse.’ I think this whole experience really has helped her with her treatment. The treehouse has become a kind of sanctuary for her and it provided memories that will stay with her forever.”
It's stories like these that motivate Ashley to continue to refer children for a wish.
“You see children in the beginning of their diagnosis when they may be scared or unsure of what the future holds, then a wish is something that gives them motivation to keep going,” Ashley said. “You really bond during this process and I think wishes bring us together and rejuvenate everyone involved.”