Gentry reports on the work of a local nonprofit founded by two oncology nurses to help hospitalized children tap into their passions.
In 2002, an eight-year-old boy named Josh was diagnosed with liver cancer of rapid dissemination and rarity. An avid San Francisco Giants fan, Josh enjoyed collecting baseball memorabilia. Hospital staff assisted Josh in tacking baseball memorabilia to the walls of his room. Along with his redecorated room, Josh also experienced great joy in perusing the nearby gift shop. Laura Euphrat and Joanne Davantes were among two of many nurse practitioners that cared for Josh in his final months. During that short period of time, Josh reinforced an idea so many of us have forgotten—that even small kindnesses are capable of huge impact.
In Josh’s loving memory, Laura Euphrat and Joanne Davantes founded a nonprofit organization called Little Wishes, which serves hospitalized children creating wholesome distractions. These children are invited to make one wish followed by another every two weeks. Repetitious wish granting provides a distraction from treatments and eases discomfort.
Two things that make the organization particularly unique are that it is internally run and 90 percent of the proceeds go towards wishes. During the delivery of a wish hospital staff, family members, and friends gather in song. Arriving as a supportive unit helps rid the child’s impending sense of isolation. Unboxing brings metaphoric rays of sunshine, which healthy children often take for granted. Yet it is difficult to appreciate the organization or the extent of its impact without exemplar stories.
A ten-year-old girl named Seana used her first wish to fulfill her dream of becoming a princess. While Little Wishes’ shoppers had a difficult time finding a princess dress that would be fitting for a girl of her age, the dress ultimately exceeded all of Seana’s expectations and was worn to multiple hospitalizations. Following a similar theme, Seana’s second wish was a “real” princess tiara. On the day this wish was due to be delivered, Seana was highly medicated. Despite her state, Seana insisted upon staying awake. At Seana’s funeral, her grandmother shared that her granddaughter requested to be buried in her princess dress and tiara.
More recently, a devoted reader wished for 15 books. Prior to her introduction to Little Wishes, chemotherapy had caused this girl to appear completely withdrawn. Upon finishing all 15 books, she built a small library. The library gave her a feeling of control, while also celebrating her passion and sharing with others.
Little Wishes upholds its values by treating all donors as family. The people responsible for each donation, no matter the size, will receive a handwritten thank you note from the organization’s founders.
Over the past 16 years, Little Wishes has earned several awards, such as the CPMC Nurse Excellence Award in 2003, the Jefferson Award in 2008, and the Red Cross Heroes Award in 2010. Little Wishes serves 20 hospitals in 12 states, and 37 additional hospitals are on the waitlist. Of Little Wishes’ current locations, 30 percent are local to the Bay Area, including LPCH Stanford, Kaiser Santa Clara, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, CPMC Sutter San Francisco, and John Muir Medical Center Walnut Creek.
On September 26, a fundraising event appropriately named Laughter for Littles will be held at the Menlo Circus Club. The evening will include a comedian, silent auction, and fine dining—all in a fundraising effort to bring more joy to Little Wishes patients. All are encouraged to attend! For more information, visit www.littlewishes.org.