Annual walk in Elk Grove brings families together for Make-A-Wish Illinois
It all seems like a blur to Joseph Guarino, a junior at Huntley High School. Last November, he was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor and, on Dec. 1, he underwent surgery at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital to remove it.
Months of follow-up appointments and brain scans followed, but no chemotherapy or radiation treatments were needed as doctors believed they caught the tumor early enough and had been able to remove all of it.
In March, Joseph and his family received more good news, this time from representatives with Make-A-Wish Illinois: He was eligible to have a wish granted.
"When they asked me where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do, I thought of New Zealand," Joseph says. "I love the outdoors, and I love the idea of hiking in the mountains and seeing the glaciers."
Joseph and his parents, Tim and Rose, and older sister Emily will all travel to New Zealand for a 10-day trip. In the meantime, they're working as a team for the "Walk for Wishes" event that takes place Sunday in Elk Grove Village.
The walk is a family event, with children encouraged to wear costumes, and all to benefit Make-A-Wish Illinois and its mission to create life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses.
"We each have goal amounts we're trying to raise," Rose Guarino says of their family team. "It's our way of paying it forward, so hopefully someone else will be able to benefit from a wish."
Officials with Make-A-Wish Illinois say the Elk Grove walkathon is the largest walk they host and one of its largest fundraisers, second only to its formal gala in May.
At this weekend's event, they expect more than 1,000 people to turn out, including more than 50 teams led by wish families. Another large contingent will be corporate teams, including Sears Hometown and Outlets Stores based in Hoffman Estates, which is leading all fundraisers.
Ultimately, Make-A-Wish officials hope to raise $250,000. Funds will help create more wish experiences, since every day approximately three Illinois children are newly diagnosed with a critical illness.
"Last year, we granted more than 700 wishes in Illinois," says Jessica Miller with Make-A-Wish Illinois, "and the average cost of granting a wish is $10,000. Of course, some are more and some are less."
She adds that a wish experience goes beyond a once-in-a-lifetime trip. It can replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy and anxiety with hope. Wishes, Miller says, give children renewed energy and bring families closer together.
Many of those families will be on hand for Sunday's walk, which will take them on an easy walk into Busse Woods. Back at the finish line, participants will enjoy games, inflatables, music and refreshments at the "Wish Village."
"More than the fundraising, it's a chance for wish families to meet each other," Miller adds, "and for community members to hear from wish families why wishes are so important to them."
That's the case with Joseph Guarino and his family.
"It's such a unique experience," Rose Guarino adds, "that reminds us that we're not the only ones going through it."
Walk for Wishes ChicagolandWhen: 9 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 30
Where: Grove 5, just southeast of Arlington Heights and Higgins roads in Busse Woods, Elk Grove Village