2017 Fiscal Year
It’s a beautiful summer day in Kodiak, Alaska. The sparkling water surrounds emerald green hills. A C-130 engine hums as the plane taxis down the runway at U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak.
A small group of pilots walk toward the hangar. They’re looking concerned about the thin line of clouds that’s just a little too low for comfort. If more clouds roll in, today’s mission might get scrubbed.
Today is the culmination of weeks of brainstorming, organizing and excitement.
Today is a day that will unite a community.
Today is a day that will live on for years to come.
Today is the chance to make a wish come true.
Eight-year-old Andrew has a life-threatening neurologic condition and was eligible for a wish.
He could’ve wished for anything. But this adrenaline junkie wanted adventure, and he wanted to help others. So he wished to be a Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer in Kodiak, Alaska.
When the Coast Guard said yes, they set the wheels in motion for an incredible adventure that changed the lives of everyone involved.
Lieutenant Commander Mike Benson answered the call. He listened to the details about Andrew and his wish, and responded with one powerful word: yes.
“It really touches your heart to have a child who dreams to be one of us,” said Benson. “Everyone I contacted to be part of this was more than willing. We had pilots begging to be selected for that flight.”
Wishes transform the lives of children, their families, volunteers, supporters, medical professionals and entire communities.
“[Andrew’s wish] really puts into perspective what everyone here does every day,” said rescue swimmer Tye Conklin. “We don’t just come here and go to work; we can have an impact on other people’s lives.”
Every detail of Andrew’s wish was carefully orchestrated, starting with the crowd of pilots and rescue swimmers who packed the tiny Kodiak airport to welcome Andrew and his family.
Andrew trained in the pool with the rescue swimmers. He toured aircraft and received his official rescue swimmer number: 946.5.
Around every corner were personalized touches and surprises. Andrew was fully immersed in the experience of being a Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer.
And finally, on his first duty day, Andrew received his first search and rescue call.
Andrew and his crew loaded into the helicopter for the simulated rescue. They flew off, high above the heads of the crowd gathering on base.
The Coast Guard Search and Rescue team in Kodiak is ready to go at a moment’s notice. They are trained to enter some of the most treacherous conditions and meet people on their worst days.
Andrew’s wish gave them a break from the harsh realities of their daily duty.
“Andrew’s wish brought up morale,” said rescue swimmer Keola Marfil. “You saw it in the rescue swimmers’ faces in the pool. Everybody was happy to be involved and in awe of what was going on. We got to hang out together, and hang out with a young man who wants to be just like us. It brings up morale and it brings our bond, however close it is, a little tighter.”
Andrew’s wish was not only medicine for him and his family. It also united the Coast Guard community.
“I’ve been in the military a long time and this is the first opportunity I’ve had to host a Make-A-Wish project,” said Captain Mark Morin, Commanding Officer of U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak. “The opportunity to meet Andrew and fulfill his lifelong dream is something very special to everyone who participated.”
As the day unfolded, Andrew’s grin grew to be a full-throttled, beaming smile. The rescue swimmers who helped fulfill Andrew’s wish transitioned from polite and generous strangers to beloved and trusted companions. You could feel a tangible shift in the dynamics of all who were involved, a growing feeling of deep respect and love for this determined little boy.”
– Katie Stern, photojournalist, KOMO News
When the white and orange Jayhawk helicopter came to land, an ecstatic Andrew peered out the door and smiled at his family on the ground.
When he landed, it was to the sounds of cheering and applause from the Coast Guard service members and their families who packed the hangar. They came out in droves to celebrate Andrew’s successful mission.
“I’ve had so many people stop me in the community when we’ve been out,” said Andrew’s dad, TJ. “Everybody knows he’s here and what he’s here for. The love and empathy and compassion has brought everyone together.”
You give children a chance to replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy and anxiety with hope. You give a wish child the chance to be a kid again when illness has ripped away a carefree childhood.
“Andrew’s wish showed him that he’s worth more than the situation he might be in,” said Petty Officer Second Class Cody Dickey. “It gave him hope, faith and showed him love and compassion to make his life the most full he possibly could. That’s what a wish does—it shows him that he matters and we love him.”
Andrew faces many tough battles ahead. He takes medication three times a day. He has to wear leg braces all day and night. He spends up to five hours a day at therapy, up to five days a week. He needs help with feeding and changing and dressing.
Despite these challenges, you’ve given Andrew a gift to carry with him during difficult days.
He wears his pint-sized olive green flight suit with pride, and protests every time he has to take it off. It’s a symbol of his friends, his heroes, and the courage he showed in Kodiak, Alaska.
“Wishes are important because a lot of kids with critical illnesses don’t get to experience life the way other people do,” said Andrew’s mom, Stephanie. “For them to know that you care about them and are willing to spend time to make things happen for them really motivates them. It breaks the monotony of therapy, doctors and hospitals and gets them out into the world.”
And, research shows that many children who have wishes granted build the physical and emotional strength they need to fight a critical illness. Doctors and social workers even use wishes as part of their treatment arsenal to bring muscle to their medicine.
“I think having Make-A-Wish in the picture helps me do my job better,” said Andrew’s physical therapist, Cindi Bussey. “We took inspiration from what I saw [from Andrew’s wish]—rolling out of the helicopter for trunk control, jumping, seated balance—anything that would inspire him. He likes to know that people are cheering for him and he’s going to make them proud.”
Andrew has a lot coming up in his life. He’s going to have quite the fight. With his wish, we’re hoping this will give him a reason to fight. For that, we thank you.”
– Stephanie, Andrew’s mom
And Andrew left his mark in Kodiak, as well. More than just his name patch that will forever hang on the wall of the rescue swimmer shop, Andrew has a spot in the hearts and minds of everyone he met.
“Andrew is an amazing kid,” said Benson. “He is truly an inspiration to us all, and we’re proud to have Andrew as a Coast Guardsman along with us.”
“I learned from him,” said Marfil. “I learned a lot about communicating, and that grew me as a person and a father tremendously. There’s that side of it, and then there’s also the fact that he was always happy. That’s inspirational. His smile is ear-to-ear. Everybody who saw his smile was smiling right off the bat, and that’s a gift.”
Each day, at least one child in Alaska and Washington is diagnosed with a critical illness, and we are not reaching them all. We have an ambitious vision: to grant the wish of every eligible child, and we can only achieve this vision with your continued support.
Wishes for kids like Andrew are possible because of donors and volunteers like you who believe in the power of a wish. You help wish kids rise about their illnesses. Last year, because of you:
We take pride in our stewardship of our financial resources, leveraging generous philanthropic support with donated goods and volunteer services.
Our audited financial statements are audited by the independent auditing firm CliftonLarsonAllen LLP, and are available upon request at no charge. To receive a copy of the 2017 fiscal year audited financial statements our our 990 report, please contact us at 800.304.WISH.
We are grateful for the dedicated and generous support from thousands of community members, businesses, corporations, foundations, clubs and associations. Contributions and investment income received by Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington during the 2017 fiscal year (September 1, 2016 to August 31, 2017) totaled $9,190,062. Included in this amount are in-kind contributions totaling $2,775,946. Net assets at the end of the year totaled $1,211,578. Of every dollar spent in the 2017 fiscal year, 73 cents went directly to granting wishes for children with critical illnesses.
|Statement of Activities||As of 8/31/17|
|Revenues, Gains and Other Support||9,190,062|
|Management and General||973,658|
In the 2017 fiscal year, many generous and forward-thinking donors left significant sums of money to our chapter through their estate plans, totaling $889,673.
If you would like to learn more about including Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington in your will, contact Asa Tate, director of philanthropy and mission advancement.