The Saskatchewan Children's Wish Foundation is in the midst of its most important fundraiser of the year, and the organization's director for the provincial chapter, Gay Oldhaver, was in Estevan on September 11 to promote the fundraiser through her Wishes and Dreams Tour.
Oldhaver said that the fundraiser – the Wish Home Lottery – is also the most lucrative fundraiser that the Saskatchewan chapter has ever offered.
Money raised during the lottery will be used to fund the wishes of children in Saskatchewan who are suffering life-threatening illnesses.
"We are doing a little more than a wish per week in Saskatchewan," said Oldhaver. "Each wish is an average more than $10,000."
The grand prize has been upped from $750,000 to $1 million, Oldhaver said. The grand prize winner can take the cash, or use it for the construction of a home or cottage anywhere in the province. There will be other prizes, too.
A 50/50 draw associated with the lottery has surpassed the $240,000 mark, she said.
There is also an early bird draw; the deadline to purchase tickets and be eligible for the early bird prizes is September 19.
Oldhaver said the goal is to sell 22,000 tickets through the lottery. If they reach that point, it will raise close to $700,000, which is enough to fund all Saskatchewan wishes for the year.
"We're on track to do well over 60 (wishes in Saskatchewan) this year," Oldhaver said.
Children can choose from three types of wishes: travel, items and celebrities.
"Sometimes the wish children know exactly what they want, but sometimes you have to talk through a couple of choices," said Oldhaver.
Disney World is the most popular option for a travel wish, followed by a European excursion.
Oldhaver recalled the story of one Saskatchewan boy this summer who spent a lot of time at a children's hospital in Toronto. During his treatment, he learned he had been granted a wish, and wanted to rent an RV to travel with his family during the journey back to Saskatchewan.
"When he was finished his treatments, he wanted to have a week-long party in an RV and drive across Canada, and that would be his homecoming to Saskatchewan," said Oldhaver.
Item wishes can range from a horse to a cow, to an outdoor gazebo for a child who can't spend much time in the sun, to a bedroom redecoration for a bed-ridden child, to a man cave for a teenage boy.
They can't do anything motorized for the item wish, but they can offer a tent trailer for camping.
Celebrity wishes allow children to attend events and to meet somebody famous.
Once a child is granted a wish, the child and the family have five years to use it, so it does create a cash flow challenge for the foundation. People might not immediately capitalize on a wish because they have to finish treatment, they have to wait for an opportune time for their family, or for other reasons.
The number of wishes that they fulfill is increasing, too, she said.
Oldhaver has also been promoting the Wishmaker Walk for Wishes, which will be happening in communities across the province, including Estevan. The local walk will occur on Saturday, September 21 at the Woodlawn Regional Park.
Absolutely anybody can participate, she said.
"If you want to just show your support and show your spirit towards these children and families, you can come out and walk," she said. "Of course, we encourage fundraising, but it's more about building this community of spirit."
Not only is the walk an important fundraiser, it encourages wish recipients, or "Wish Alumni," as Oldhaver called them, to share their stories and to encourage families to apply for a wish.