Students grant child’s NYC dream
Published: Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 17:07
Thousands of people gather at the edge of the Hudson River in New York City each year to see the Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks display light up the sky. For New Yorkers, this is an annual event that brings crowds of people into the city for a night of fun. For Ilse Allende, a 10-year-old girl with a life-threatening illness, this is a dream out of her reach. This summer, as part of a class assignment, seven UCF students set out to make that dream come true.
Jessica Peters, Iris Mora, Cara Stagliano, Shaun Doerrfeld, Lukas Sanner, Oscar Ospina and John Zaloum make up Team Wishing Wand.
These students enrolled in a one-credit cornerstone lab class required by the College of Business not knowing that their participation in the course would be a life-changing experience, said Peters, a junior majoring in marketing. Students in the cornerstone program are required to choose a charity, find out what the needs are within the organization and find a way to assist them with a resolution.
“At first you are working on it because it’s for a grade,” Peters said. “But the purpose isn’t to complete the class; the purpose is to get into the organization and make this [wish] happen.”
Team Wishing Wand chose to work with New Hope for Kids, an organization that grants wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses and provides grieving services for children whose parent passed away.
New Hope for Kids director Rosie Wilder said that the cornerstone program has been sending students to work with New Hope for Kids since fall 2003. Cornerstone accounts for between 40 and 50 percent of the total funds used to grant wishes each year.
“Since then there have been hundreds of wishes granted and I’ve worked with hundreds of students, but Team Wishing Wand certainly stood out,” Wilder said.
After an initial meeting with Wilder, the student team chose to grant Allende’s wish to travel to New York for the city’s annual fireworks display.
“That’s [been] her wish for more than three years,” said Limaris Allende, Ilse’s mother. “We tried [to go] before but every time we tried, she got too sick and we had to spend the money on doctors and hospitals. When I heard about New Hope, I called and in a few weeks, we had the wish.”
Ilse has epilepsy and cerebral palsy, and she is blind in one eye. Cerebral palsy is a term used to describe a group of disorders that impair the ability to control movement. According to The United Cerebral Palsy Association, there are more than 764,000 Americans currently diagnosed with CP, and between 35 and 50 percent of all children with CP will also have seizure disorders and possibly some level of mental disability.
“When the students came to see her [Ilse], she didn’t know what to do with herself. … They were very attentive, and they got her involved,” Wilder said. “I was amazed with the rapport because I don’t think the students were used to children with special needs, but they did very well.”
Throughout the semester, the team held fundraisers and mailed donor letters to raise the funds necessary for Ilse’s trip. The original goal of $1,500 was raised within the first two weeks of beginning the fundraising initiatives.
“What made this team stand out so much is that they could have quit. They raised all the money they needed after their first event, but they just kept going and going and going,” Wilder said. “They amazed themselves, and they certainly amazed me.”
The fundraisers included a pool tournament, a Mojitos Night during which there was a silent auction, and a bowling party. By the end of the semester, the team was able to raise a total of $6,243.37 — four times the amount it set out to raise. Wilder said that in the nine years that students have been working with her to grant wishes, only two other teams have made anywhere near this amount and only one actually earned more than Team Wishing Wand.
“Everyone tells you how hard the work is but no one tells you how rewarding it is going to be,” said Sanner, a junior majoring in finance. “It is definitely the most rewarding opportunity at UCF.”
Once the semester is complete, the students are invited to participate in a Cornerstone Social Entrepreneurship Competition in which the teams must present their projects, goals and successes to a panel of judges. Team Wishing Wand won first place out of six teams that participated in the competition.
“What inspires me is how well they let us know the goals they were accomplishing and the human impact their project made,” said Cameron Ford, director for the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
The judges deliberated based upon how the teams presented their projects, how well they worked together to meet their goals and the lasting impact they had on the organization they were working with, Ford said.
“It’s not just about the dollar amount,” cornerstone lab instructor Phyllis Harris said. “It’s about how well they apply the concepts they’ve learned. … All UCF students should be proud of how these teams represented UCF in the community.”
Sanner said that for Team Wishing Wand, it was more than just a class project.
“It made an impact for us,” Sanner said. “We were really doing this for Ilse and not for just a grade in the class.”
Ilse was able to travel to New York for six days with her family and had the opportunity to visit many of the tourist attractions including the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building.