By Carley Dangonacarley@thereminder.com
WEST SPRINGFIELD – Golfers once again assembled on the green of the Springfield Country Club in support of children facing life-threatening illness.
The 2014 Make-A-Wish Massachusetts and Rhode Island Golf Classic took place on June 9. This year featured 144 golfers and marks the tenth anniversary of the fundraising event. To participate, sponsors pledged $200, $1,250, $3,000 or $5,000. In comparison, last year’s event featured 132 participants and raised $72,490 for the cause.
Peg Wheble, development officer for Make-A-Wish Massachusetts and Rhode Island stated the average cost for a wish is $7,500. The organization hopes to grant 10 wishes with the funds raised at the Golf Classic. It grants approximately 50 wishes throughout Western Massachusetts annually.
“Make-A-Wish [Massachusetts and Rhode Island] far exceeded anything we ever expected,” Sylvia Middlebrooks of Springfield said. “When you experience the kind of service they give – it’s second to none.”
Her daughter Nia’s wish to visit Walt Disney World and the beach was granted last July. Nia’s two siblings, Demetreus, 11, and Arianna, 12, and her aunt Dyane accompanied Nia, 5, and her mom on the trip.
Middlebrooks explained that Make-A-Wish Massachusetts and Rhode Island oversaw every detail of the trip from making sure Nia’s oxygen was set properly during the plane ride to providing spending money for the family.
“Snow White was the most fun,” Nia said when asked what character she enjoyed meeting most. She said that she chose the trip because she loves the water and the beach. It was her first time swimming in the ocean.
Nia was born with a sickle cell disease. She suffered a stroke in May 2012 that left her with paralysis on the left side of her body. She developed a chronic lung disease related to the stroke. She uses a wheelchair, but can walk short distances with the use of a brace.
Middlebrooks and Nia were stationed at Boston Children’s Hospital from May to December 2012, away from their family.
Middlebrooks explained that the lung disease “doesn’t go away, you manage it” and said that Nia “is doing well now.” Initially, Nia wasn’t speaking after the stroke, but regained the use of her voice after undergoing speech therapy. She still sees a physical and an occupational therapist to work on strengthening and improving the functionality of her left side.
“It meant so much. It was a rejuvenation and a family reunion. It was a healing trip,” Middlebrooks said of the family trip to Florida. She noted that the salt water made Nia feel better. She added that the family wouldn’t have been able to go on vacation since she had lost her job.
Collin Dowd, a 22-year-old intern for Make-A-Wish Massachusetts and Rhode Island, received his own wish when he was 19. Dowd, from Hatfield, said that in March of 2010, he was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in his lung, a condition so rare that the doctors didn’t have a name for it. He underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
His wish was to travel to the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska. His parents and twin brother accompanied him. They spent time with activities such as fishing and dogsledding.
“I got to spend time with my whole family. It was one of the more positive things that came out of [having] cancer. There’s not many,” Dowd said.
Down is now three and a half years cancer free. He studies economics at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York.
Peter Martins, a Ludlow-based Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee, discussed the company’s participation in the event as a title sponsor since its inception.
“Easy. It’s a great cause, a no brainer. It’s a lot of fun to see kids do something they want to do,” he said.
To learn more about Make-A-Wish Massachusetts and Rhode Island, visit http://massri.wish.org