How Make-A-Wish New Jersey works, and now pediatricians can help

A look at the New Jersey Chapter of Make-A-Wish, the birth of this organization, and how pediatricians can help to get the message out there.

Recently, Contemporary Pediatrics spoke with Nicole Rivera, Vice President of Mission Delivery, Make-A-Wish New Jersey, about the organization, and what their goals are going into 2022.


1. Tell us a little bit about Make-A-Wish in general, and how it all began?

In April 1980 in Phoenix, Arizona, 7-year-old Chris Greicius, who was battling leukemia, wanted to be a police officer. Members of law enforcement, including US customs agents and the Department of Public Safety, came together to create a life-changing experience for him. From a full police uniform, to tours in a squad car and even a ride in a helicopter, Chris’ experience provided him a level of joy that he hadn’t seen in a long time. On May 3,1980, Chris passed away and was given a full police ceremony. Those involved in Chris’ special day—including his mother Linda Pauling—were determined they could provide the same level of hope, strength and joy for more kids like Chris battling life-threatening medical conditions. It was decided that they would create an unparalleled type of charity known as Make-A-Wish, to create life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses. Since April 1980, Make-A-Wish has created over 500,000 life-changing wishes across the country and around the world.

2. What about this New Jersey chapter: how do you work compared to other regional chapters?

Make-A-Wish New Jersey is proud to serve as a leading chapter within our organization. With 59 chapters across the country and our national office based in Phoenix Arizona, along with nearly 40 international affiliates, our mission to create life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses is a universal one across the enterprise. Here in New Jersey, we have granted the wishes of over 11,000 children. Our chapter headquarters is based in Monroe Township, New Jersey, at the Samuel & Josephine Plumeri Wishing Place – a magical and whimsical wish-granting castle. Since it first opened in December 2010, the Wishing Place is the only one of its kind in the world. The castle has served as an inspirational backdrop to special events, first-time visits with wish families, and thousands of wishes inspired and granted. Most importantly, the Wishing Place serves as a special place where wish children can come and let their minds be free of the limitations that come with a critical illness. The Wishing Place provides an environment that will stimulate a child’s imagination and reveal the exciting possibilities of a life-changing wish.

3. What would you say is the No. 1 goal of Make-A-Wish New Jersey, as we head towards 2022?

Since 1980, our vision has never wavered – to reach every eligible child and grant him or her a life-changing wish. Past studies have shown us that each year, approximately 700 or more children in New Jersey will be diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition that will qualify them for a wish through our mission. This means that each day, two New Jersey families learn the devasting news that their child has been diagnosed with a critical illness. With the help of our medical community, our vision is to reach more eligible children each year, so they may too experience the same hope, strength, and joy during this difficult time in their lives as Chris Greicius felt back in April of 1980 when our mission was born.

4. How can pediatricians help achieve this goal?

The majority of our referrals come from our medical community – doctors, nurses, social workers and child life specialists. They have witnessed first-hand the impact a wish can have on their pediatric patients, and their continued support as our key referral sources is critical to moving our mission forward. Our vision to reach every eligible child in New Jersey is an ambitious one but it starts with our colleagues in our medical community. Every wish begins with a referral. Our medical partners can visit md.wish.org to learn more about eligibility or refer a child today.

5. Anything else you would like to add that would be important for our pediatric health care providers to know about?

To qualify for a wish from Make-A-Wish, a child must be older than 2 ½ years and under 18 years of age, and diagnosed with a critical illness currently placing the child’s life in jeopardy. By referring a child to Make-A-Wish, you are not only contributing to the child’s physical care but their mental well-being during this difficult time in their lives. Children who have received a wish experienced significant positive changes in hope, emotions, health-related quality of life, and anxiety. We thank all our pediatric health care providers for all that they do to help move our mission forward. We look forward to continuing our partnerships with our pediatric healthcare providers for years to come.

Visit md.wish.org to learn more about eligibility or refer a child today.