2018 Fiscal Year

Ainsley wished to have an accessible outdoor space. You made it happen!

There is a quilt hanging over the arm of Ainsley’s swing. Every square, each stitch made with care. A thoughtful, deliberate act of love.

This quilt, handmade just for wish kid Ainsley, wraps around her and her parents: it offers warmth on cool days, comfort when times are tough, and a constant reminder of the community that lifted them up and made this space—just for Ainsley.

This source of comfort and community is what you made possible for Ainsley and her family when her wish came true, and we’re so grateful.

Ainsley’s wish story really begins seven years ago, on the day she was born.

“We had about 24 hours with her in the hospital where everything seemed fine,” said Ainsley’s mom, Heidi. “Then the doctor came and sat down next to the bed and said, ‘Let’s talk about the baby.’ I had no idea anything was wrong. She looked perfect to me. She still looks perfect to me.”

Ainsley was born with Zellweger spectrum disorder, a genetic condition that can present itself in many different ways. Doctors told her family she may not walk; she may not see her first birthday.

For Ainsley’s family, those first years held many unknowns.

“That first year of Ainsley’s life was really hard, because we just kind of thought we’d wake up in the morning and that would be the last day,” said Heidi.

But with much love, support and hard work, Ainsley learned how to walk, swim, swing and run. She celebrated birthday after birthday. And she found the greatest joy exploring outdoors.

“Ainsley liked to free-range,” said Ainsley’s dad, Kato. “Walking was her favorite thing in the world … she would do that in perpetuity if we’d let her.”

Then, just before her sixth birthday, everything changed.

Ainsley’s family had recently moved to a new home. It had a big, open yard so Ainsley could run and play. But over the course of four months, Ainsley slowly lost the abilities she had worked so hard for: walking, sitting and using her hands.

Ainsley could no longer experience the outdoors in the way she loved.

“Part of our experience in this home was to give Ainsley this nice big yard and outdoor space to play with,” said Kato. “Unfortunately, with her disorder taking a more aggressive hold, it really changed her ability to interact with the world. To have this big yard and home we had built and designed specifically around Ainsley and then all of a sudden have it not be a good fit was a somber reminder for us.”

That’s where the idea of Ainsley’s wish was born.

Heidi and Kato knew they had an incredible opportunity to make Ainsley’s wish something that would truly transform her life. In fact, a 2015 study* on the effects of granting wishes on children with critical illnesses revealed wishes not only increased children’s hope, they were often a key way to improve children’s quality of life. These wishes allowed children to think beyond the limitations of their illness.

Ainsley’s social worker, Jenni Bartlett, agrees. “Some of these children’s day-to-day routines are medical appointments. It’s quite a daunting list because that’s what their care requires,” she said. “So often, we’re going into problem solving mode to address immediate needs. It feels really good to just slow down and bring joy, to focus on something that’s positive … I try to make wishes a priority because it’s part of a plan of care.”

Heidi and Kato wanted to give Ainsley something so simple, so pure. They wanted her to be able to go outside and play again. And the idea of a great big swing developed.

“We really wanted a way for her to reclaim the yard, reclaim the home—her home—and give her an opportunity to be happy outside,” said Kato.

So, like the pieces of the quilt that now provides warmth and comfort for her family, Ainsley’s wish started to come together, piece by piece.

Barbara Carr from Sentinel Construction received a call from Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington. She listened to the details about Ainsley and her wish, and she said something simple but powerful: “yes.”


It’s not just the structure, not just the plants. It’s the ability to remove Ainsley and Heidi and Kato from their situation, even for a moment.”

– Barbara Carr

Then it grew, stitch by stitch.

Sentinel Construction reached out to their vendors and staff, who all enthusiastically jumped to make this possible for Ainsley.

“Participating in a wish gives people a chance to be a part of something,” Barbara said. “People think you have to have a lot of the contacts or money; I don’t think they realize the difference they can make just by participating.”

Lumber, stone and labor were all donated or discounted. Some Sentinel employees drove for hours to help dig post-holes, stain and install the swing.

“I knew this was greater than plants and a pathway,” said Sue Goetz, a landscape designer from Father Nature Landscaping who helped with the project. “I hope this garden gives Ainsley’s family a sense of normalcy, joy and peace. That they don’t feel inhibited or stymied by the fact they can’t go to the park … instead, we built them a park.”

“With everything that’s happened with Ainsley, we can’t really get out of the house much,” said Heidi. “This gives us a chance to have our friends come and play—come and play at Ainsley’s house—it’s the place to be. It’s wonderful for her.”


I think that was the most touching thing for us. These people who didn’t have to care, cared. It made a big difference to us to know that Ainsley’s life has meaning and there’s value, legacy and impact to the world.”

– Kato

Finally, it all came together in one beautiful, handcrafted masterpiece.

“We heard she liked to have the wind in her face and she liked to see the sky and the stars,” said Barbara. “We took those sensory things and implemented those all the way down to the color of the cushions.”

The swing has a metal roof so Ainsley, who wears a cochlear implant, can hear the rain falling. It has a brass gutter so she can hear the rain running through it. It has a skylight so she can feel the sun. The sides are open so she can feel the wind; she can smell the flowers and hear the leaves rustling. And the path that goes from the house to the swing is wheelchair accessible.

“This is something we can take back a little bit,” said Kato. “It’s small, in the scheme of things, but it’s profound when you’re faced with little or no milestones and closed doors and closed opportunities, and your hopes and aspirations for your child are redefined in an instant.”

And Ainsley’s wish has done even more than give her family a place to spend time together.

“Through Make-A-Wish, Ainsley brought us another family,” said Heidi. “I wish I didn’t have a reason to know all these people who came together for Ainsley for this wish. I wish Ainsley didn’t have a reason to need this. It’s one of those things that we wish we didn’t need, but we’re so grateful for it.”

“Ainsley’s wish has given us another source of happiness which, in our lives, is very hard to come by,” said Kato. “It’s really been a profound impact for us. It’s a little ray of sunshine in what’s a really difficult time for our family.”

Wishes like Ainsley’s are possible because of people just like you. For that, we thank you.

View more stories in this issue

Our year: Celebrating 362 children and their wishes

Wishes for kids like Ainsley are possible because donors and volunteers like you believe in the power of a wish. You help wish kids rise above their illnesses. Last year, because of you:

wishes came true for children in Alaska and Washington

additional children from other parts of the U.S. and the world received their wishes in Alaska and Washington

new wish referrals received by our office, thanks in large part to your investment in our outreach efforts

volunteers dedicated countless hours to turn wishes into reality

Your generosity makes life-changing experiences possible

We take pride in our stewardship of our financial resources, leveraging generous philanthropic support with donated goods and volunteer services.

Our annual financial statements are audited by the independent auditing firm CliftonLarsonAllen LLP, and are available upon request at no charge. To receive a copy of our 2018 fiscal year audited financial statements or our 990 report, please contact us at 800.304.WISH.

Fundraising

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 2018 fiscal year (September 1, 2017 to August 31, 2018) totaled $9.36M. Included in this amount are in-kind contributions totaling $2.87M. Net assets at the end of the year totaled $1.2M. Of every dollar spent in the fiscal year 2018, 71 cents went directly to granting wishes for children with critical illnesses.

2018 Public Support Revenue

  • In-kind goods and services 31.4%
  • Internal and external special fundraising events 20.9%
  • Gifts from individuals 32.3%
  • Corporate support 14.1%
  • Foundation support 1.3%

2018 Expenses by Function

%

Program (wish granting, outreach, volunteer, and public education)

%

Fundraising and events

%

Management and General

Statement of Activities

Revenue, Gains and Other Support 9,361,503
Program Expenses 5,799,051
Fundraising 1.254.994
Management and General 1,181,678
Total Expenses 8,235,723
Net Surplus/(Deficit) 2,337,358

Legacy Gifts

In the 2018 fiscal year, many caring individuals wished it forward by making a legacy gift to our chapter through their estate plans, totaling $1.3M.

If you would like to learn more about including Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington in your will, please click here or contact Melissa Arias.

Special Thanks

Special thanks to Ainsley and her family for being the stars of our FY18 Gratitude Report. Thanks also to American Building and Roofing, Bob Carr, Carl and Pat Callender, Carol Wester, David Godbolt and Barbara Carr, DBA: NW Millwork and Door, Father Nature Landscaping, Kingston Lumber, Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital, Novak’s Continuous Metal Gutters, Precision Millwork and Door, Randy-Kan, Ron and Valerie Rotmark, Sentinel Construction, VELUX America, Works Granite and Stone, and wish-granting volunteers Larry Bleich and Ken Kieffer. Photos courtesy Larry Bleich, Scott Harder and Amber Tolbert.

Click here to view a full listing of our Board of Trustees and Staff.

*Shoshani, A. Mifano, K. Czamanski-Cohen, J. (2015). The effects of the Make a Wish intervention on psychiatric symptoms and health-related quality of life of children with cancer: a randomized controlled trial. Quality of Life Research, 25(5), 1209-1218. doi 10.1007/s11136-015-1148-7