By Allison Hale
Members of the Northern Iowa Wishmakers, a student organization affiliated with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, took to local yards on Saturday, November 10th and Sunday, November 11th, 2018 to rake leaves. Charging Cedar Valley residents $5 per bag of leaves raked, proceeds raised by Wishmakers went directly towards granting the wishes of sick children in the Cedar Valley Area.
Fallin’-For-Wishes is an annual fundraiser organized by the Northern Iowa Wishmakers. Members of the organization post flyers in various neighborhoods around Cedar Falls and promote the event on social media to find interested homeowners. Taking place in mid-November, the fundraiser occurs at the perfect time to accommodate residents with leaves needing to be removed. Taelor Williamson, the current Director of Events for the Northern Iowa Wishmakers, said they received so many requests to rake leaves this year, they had to turn some people down. Through the Northern Iowa Wishmakers’ efforts at this year’s event, the organization raised $3,000 for Make-A-Wish Iowa.
The generous participation of many individuals allowed the group to collectively rake 27 bags of leaves while braving the cold during the Fallin’-For-Wishes event. When asked about the tools they use for their fundraising efforts, Taelor responded, “This year, we were fortunate enough to have everything donated to us, so we did not have to purchase any bags, rakes, or tools.” Taelor revealed that prior to the event, there are many phone calls made to homeowners and area business for donations.
Taelor explained that Wishmakers is “different than other student organizations” because they do not have their own financial accounts. After the conclusion of their fundraisers, 100% of proceeds raised goes directly to Make-A-Wish Iowa. The organization conducts many small fundraisers every year, such as receiving a portion of the proceeds raised at local restaurants on specific nights. In addition, the Northern Iowa Wishmakers organize three large fundraisers every year. These include Fallin’-For-Wishes, a leave raking event; Flippin’-For-Wishes, a pancake breakfast; and Flockin’-For-Wishes, where flamingos are placed in yards. With the accumulation of these fundraising efforts, the Northern Iowa Wishmakers work towards their mission of “grant(ing) the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.”
Taelor has a very special connection to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. “Make-A-Wish has impacted my life in more ways than I can count,” she said. When Taelor was twelve, she was diagnosed with the rare disease Achalasia. At age fifteen, she received a call from the Make-A-Wish Foundation that she had been granted a wish. “Before this,” she said, “I hadn’t even considered myself to be a candidate.” Taelor’s family was able to take a trip to Hawaii, where she met many other families in her situation. “I also got to see my brother be a normal kid,” she said, “and not a kid who has to spend a lot of time in the hospital because his big sister is sick.” Taelor revealed that Make-A-Wish allowed her family to live “without worrying about hospital stays, surgeries, or medical bills.” When Taelor saw the booth for the Northern Iowa Wishmakers at the student organization fair her freshman year of college, she knew she wanted to be involved.
When asked why other students should get involved, Taelor responded, “because it’s a really rewarding way to give back to the community without a giant time commitment.” Wishmakers meet once a week on the UNI campus, and fundraisers are spread out throughout the year as to not be overwhelming. “I got to experience the magic of a wish firsthand,” said Taelor. “I am so blessed,” she said, “to be able to give back to the organization that changed my life.”