Spokane North Notes

A weekly bulletin of the Spokane-North Rotary

July 28, 2014

Editors: Chuck Rehberg and Sandy Fink

Photos: Jim Minkler and Eric Johnson



Austin, Texas, Rotarian Zach B. Davis and Spokane-North President Jon Heideman exchanged club flags at the July 28th luncheon.  Davis, a senior portfolio advisor with the Merrill Lynch office in Austin, said his club has 280 members.  Davis said recent floods damaged a number of homes near Onion Creek in Austin, but the lingering Texas drought continues and residents would like “a small hurricane” for additional rain.



In this case, wishing does make things come true

            For a young lady with a life-threatening heart condition, it was a two-story backyard castle, complete with a slide.

            For an 18-year-old male fighting bone cancer, it was getting married on the Oregon Coast to his high school girlfriend, who had become his full-time care-giver.

            Those were among the more challenging wishes granted by Spokane-based Wishing Star Foundation.

            Wishing Star executive director Sarah WallinImage discussed the program at the club’s July 28th luncheon.

            She said Wishing Star, with a staff of four, has its home office at 139 S. Sherman, and grants an average of 40 wishes a year, depending on available revenues.

              The coverage area is central and eastern Washington and all of Idaho.  Wallin said 1,250 wishes have been granted since the agency was started in 1983 by Coeur d’Alene teachers Ed and Karen Kurowski.  They have retired to the Midwest, but stay in touch with the agency, she said.

            Wallin said while the larger, national Make-a-Wish Foundation covers children to age 18, Wishing Star grants wishes to those with life-threatening conditions up to age 21.

            When young Adrianne, the heart patient, wanted a trip to Disney World, her doctors said she was not able to fly.  So Wishing Star recruited Spokane Home Builders’ apprentices to build her own magic kingdom, the backyard castle with play equipment.  Wallin said the top of the castle is visible over the family fence in their home near the Fairways Golf Course west of Spokane.  The girl even got a ride in a carriage pulled by a Clydesdale horse.

            For Randy, dangerously pale and thin, his bone cancer produced blood-count readings so ominous that doctors vetoed a trip to the Oregon Coast.  But Wallin said Randy refused alternative wishes.  Wallin said the foundation staff wasn’t even sure the girlfriend would say “yes” to the proposal.  But almost miraculously, Randy’s blood test results improved, and the next year the couple was wed – on the sands of the Oregon Coast.

            This summer the couple celebrated their third anniversary.  “You can see what the power of a wish does,” Wallin said.

            She adds that “80 percent of our kids are still living.  That’s a good statistic.”

            Wallin said clients are referred by hospital and school nurses, by families, even by the young patients themselves.  Wishes are granted on a first-come, first-served basis and the average wish costs about $5,000 to fulfill, she said.  Doctors certify the life-threatening medical conditions of the children.

            Wallin said while Disney trips are common requests, others are more unusual, including a swim with dolphins, digging dinosaur bones and a ride in “Herbie, the Love Bug” from the Disney movie.  One 16-year-old girl got a Nascar vehicle ride.  Another patient, keenly interested in tornadoes, got a trip to Tornado Alley in Oklahoma, plus a tour with a notable storm chaser.

            “I do one or two wishes a year,” Wallin said.  “It’s important for our hearts to stay in the mission.”  An EWU grad who majored in psychology, Wallin said she left a four-year banking career “to work with kids,” joining Wishing Star in 2008 as program director.  She was named executive director last October.

            Beyond the wishes, she said, the foundation provides family-friendly activities, including tickets to shows and sporting events, Christmas presents and even parties at the Carrousel, where the ride is slowed to accommodate the patients.

            Wishing Star is the oldest wish-granting agency in the Inland Northwest and fourth-oldest in the country, she said.

            No government funding is involved.  Donations are supplemented by a November banquet, the Taste of Spokane event, and Send a Friend a Goat, which recently raised $27,000 by having goats delivered to offices or other workplaces and asking a $50 donation to take the goat away.Wishing Star.