‘Pass it Forward’ social media challenge helps 'wish kids' impacted by COVID-19 travel
TORONTO -- Many Canadians had to cancel their travel plans in the wake of COVID-19, and that included ‘wish kids.’
“With the pandemic now we’ve had to cancel hundreds of wishes related to travel,” said Tiffany MacDonald, Regional Vice President of Central and Eastern Ontario, Make-A-Wish Foundation of Canada.
“Let me tell you it’s not easy to call a little five year old and tell them, ‘you know you were supposed to go to Disney in two days? Well, that’s not happening’.”
One of the wish kids to have their trip postponed is 17-year-old Corey, who battled non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2018 and is now in remission.
“COVID-19 has affected the world massively, including me,” the Toronto-area teen told CTV News Toronto. “My trip to Hawaii was postponed. It was supposed to be during March Break, but that did not happen.”
Last year, Make-A-Wish Canada granted 1,600 wishes and 70 per cent of them involved travel. MacDonald says many wish kids had been looking forward to their trips for months, even years.
“We’re part of that healing process, and it’s something for the kids to really want to and imagine and wish for,” she says. “So us telling them that their wish is being postponed or held off for a couple months has been really hard for them. It’s been hard for us too.”
In an effort to offer support to the organization and to those waiting for their wishes, a “pass it forward” challenge was created on social media by a wish child in Newfoundland.
“He decided that he’s already had his wish and he decided to help find a fun way to help ‘wish it forward’,” MacDonald explained. “The idea is to use our beloved national pastime, being hockey, and passing the puck symbolizes us passing kindness and bravery and hope, so that our kids have something to keep looking forward to.”
Corey, a hockey player himself, caught wind of the challenge and wanted to be a part of it, too.
“It was just a way to raise awareness with what’s going on with Make-A-Wish and try and raise money for the organization to help them and the kids who had wishes postponed,” he said.
“I posted a video, I received a pass of a puck, I passed the puck off my screen as in hoping that the people who I nominated would continue this initiative so that there would be more awareness toward the cause and I guess more donations.”
The “Pass it Forward” challenge also has caught the attention of a few NHL players, including Ryan O’Reilly of the St. Louis Blues, who shared a video of his own.
Before the pandemic began, Corey had another wish fulfilled and got to meet the Toronto Maple Leafs in their dressing room after a game. He says he was happy to do his part to support Make-A-Wish during this uncertain time.
“I’m just very thankful for them. They really give these kids with critical illnesses like me some hope, something to hold onto,” he said. “There’s very dark times when someone is diagnosed with a critical illness like this, so it’s just something to look forward to and it’s like, this is what’s coming for you.”
And while there is still uncertainty on when Corey will get to go on his trip to Hawaii, he hopes that other wish kids will stay strong and ‘hold on.’
“It’s okay to be sad and angry that your trip was cancelled, but the Wish organization is doing this so that you can have your full trip,” he said.
“They want you to have the best time, and they also want you to be safe.”
“It is worth the wait guys, and hopefully the world will get back to normal really soon and we’ll be able to grant that wish for you,” added MacDonald.
“A wish is not a ‘nice-to-have’, it is part of their journey of healing. We really need people to keep helping us out so that when the world is healthy we’re ready to grant those wishes.”