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Make-A-Wish: Noon Lions Club helps foundation grant wishes

The Tim and Amy Kreidt family is looking forward to the benefit for Make-A-Wish North Dakota on Saturday in Dickinson. In fact, they wouldn't miss it for the world.

The family has a first-hand appreciation of the foundation's work of granting wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses. Their daughter, Anna, was granted a wish when she was diagnosed with kidney cancer. She wanted to visit Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

"Make-A-Wish is such an amazing program," Amy Kreidt said. "We knew about the wish for months. We researched what the kids could look forward to. It was exciting, the whole thing was exciting."

Anna was diagnosed with kidney cancer when she was 2 1/2 years old. She went through two surgeries and 18 weeks of chemotherapy. She will have checkups for another five years.

Anna was nearly 4 when the family was contacted by the Make-A-Wish staff in 2008. Wish-granters Robin and Misty Staiger came over several times to help them plan the trip and the kick-off party the week between Christmas and New Year's.

"It was exciting for the little kids and the adults," Amy said.

The entire family went on the trip, including Jevon, now age 11 and Claire, 9.

An illness doesn't affect just the child -- it impacts the entire family, Amy said.

"The other two went through a lot -- they stayed with grandma and grandpa," she said. "For three months, fall and winter, we didn't go anywhere."

The family flew out of Minneapolis with another Make-A-Wish family from Wisconsin. They stayed in the Give Kids the World Village, a 70-acre nonprofit storybook resort, complete with bedrooms, laundry, food service, a 24-hour ice cream store and Disney characters who came for visits.

One of Anna's favorite memories was the ice cream shop, while Claire loved meeting the characters.

The ride "Soarin'" was Claire's favorite.

"It would spray water as you went over the ocean -- it was really neat," Amy added.

"One time, this man said he could read your mind," Anna remembers. "He read my mind and drew it on paper -- it actually was ice cream."

One of Jevon's favorite activities was making a Star Wars light sword.

For the parents, it was watching their children have a good time.

"Everybody gets to act like a kid and forget about everything," Amy said.

They were given Make-A-Wish passes, which are even better than fast passes, Amy said.

"The parks were filled to capacity; and with our passes, we'd get to the front every time," she added.

The Kreidts live 15 miles north and east of Dickinson. Tim is an instructor and athletic trainer at Dickinson State University while Amy is nursing director at the Sanford Clinic.

Reflecting on the trip, Amy said, "We were shocked at how organized and how well everything is coordinated by Make-A-Wish. You don't realize how many people are involved with their time and money -- all the volunteers from here to greeting us at the airport."

The girls are looking forward to the benefit, with its silent auction, dinner and dancing.

"The Noon Lions Club does a good job of promoting it," Amy added. "Last year, the benefit happened to be on Anna's birthday. I think it increased revenues because people purchased gifts for her, and each of the Wish kids ended up getting something that night. It was amazing to watch people bidding."

Amy said her sister-in-law's nephew in Minnesota is currently undergoing treatment for leukemia.

"They are working on a wish for him too," she said.

Kelly Braun, a member of the Noon Lions Club and Make-A-Wish board of directors, has helped grant five area wishes and is in the process of granting two more.

"It's to bring happiness and joy into the lives of young children who have a life-threatening illness," he said.

He referenced helping one youth restore a pickup, another take a fishing trip to Alaska and several who visited Disney World.

Make-A-Wish grants wishes to children ages 2 1/2 to 18. Eligible children are usually referred by physicians or social workers.

Braun said the benefit is family friendly.

"We like to have children there," he said. "The silent auction has lots of items for children."

The music is provided by Thunder Road. The meal will include deep-fried turkey, cabbage rolls, mashed potatoes and gravy and corn.

Adult tickets are $10, and children ages 6 to 12, are $5. Children ages 5 and younger are free. In addition, raffle tickets are available for prizes including a lap-top computer, television, barbecue grill and cash prizes. Tickets are available during the benefit and at Braun's office at 358 First St. E.

"We hope the wish actually gives them the spark to get better -- it's the bright light at the end of the tunnel of a long journey," Braun said.

Anna's wish was one of 653 wishes granted since Make-A-Wish North Dakota started in 1985, said Kayla Foltz, director of Make-A-Wish program services at Fargo.

Foltz and Dana Altendorf, director of community relations, plan to attend the Dickinson benefit.

"It's a huge fundraiser in Dickinson," Foltz said. "We get a lot of participation from the Wish kids and families. I thoroughly enjoy it."

All of the funds to grant wishes are through donations from fundraisers, like the one in Dickinson, she said.

"If anyone has ever encountered a Wish child, you get hooked," she said. "It takes the focus off their medical condition and when you get a taste of that, you can't let it go."

She referenced the comment made by a youth who was granted a fishing trip to Alaska. He told her it saved his life.

"Disney World is very common and Hawaii is a more common wish," she said. "We have one adorable wish boy, 7, who wanted to go to Texas and hang out with real cowboys during the Professional Bull Riding Rodeo in Texas."

The child and family boarded the plane on Thursday morning, but he had his chaps on and was ready to leave last Sunday, she said.

"We have a child in Grand Forks who is going on a Disney cruise in April," she said. "We had another girl swim with the dolphins."

The Make-A-Wish staff at Fargo works behind the scenes to make the reservations, but Foltz credits the volunteers who have direct contact with the families.

"We do the behind-the-scenes work, but our volunteers add the magic," she said. "They know how much Make-A-Wish helps them and they give back."

All the money raised in North Dakota stays in North Dakota. Their list of area children preparing for a wish include a child in New Town, two in Williston, one at Berthold and two in the Dickinson area.