For Lori Morrison-Young, helping to grant a wish to a sick child was always on her bucket list of things she wanted to make sure she experienced. Recently, she got to check it off her list.
As the employee giving representative for her group of fellow Southern California Edison (SCE) employees at the Covina Service Center, volunteering and donating to worthy causes is a year-round affair. And recently, this group helped to grant a second wish to Kassandra, a 15-year-old girl whose cancer had returned.
Working with Grants Wishes, a unique nonprofit in Southern California that helps grant a second wish to children whose cancer has returned, Morrison-Young and her fellow employees raised enough funds to help grant Kassandra’s wish.
“This experience makes you realize that you never know where your life is going to lead you,” said Morrison-Young, who, along with her husband Mike Young, drove down to Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego to personally give Kassandra her gifts. “As happy and wonderful as this moment was, I was overwhelmed with emotions because my twin daughters are close in age to Kassandra. I have to say that this was a life changing experience for our family.”
With the funds the SCE employees had donated, Kassandra received three different sets of bedding, a DVD player, various DVDs and an elaborate scrapbook. She also got an SCE stuffed bear.
“She was a little overwhelmed and confused at first when we walked in,” said Morrison-Young. “Once she realized why we were there, she lit up. She was laughing, happy and took in every moment. Her family was just as overjoyed as she was to have the wish granted.”
Since 2005, Grants Wishes has helped grant more than 250 second wishes to children who have relapsed with cancer. The nonprofit was founded after Lori Sullivan’s son Grant passed away at the age of six after battling cancer for the second time. Today, the nonprofit works with various hospitals in Southern California such as Children's Hospital of Orange County (CHOC), Kaiser Permanente Hospital Anaheim and City of Hope National Medical Center to help make second wishes come true.
“This wasn’t something we had planned,” said Sullivan, co-founder of Grants Wishes whose son Grant lost his battle with cancer in November 2002. “I know first-hand how it feels — how can we put a child through this again?”
But the pain that sprouted the nonprofit has also resulted in a very rewarding experience, said Sullivan. “It is so rewarding to make a difference in these kids’ lives. We are there to be like Santa Clause — give a gift and we expect nothing in return.”
In addition to Grants Wishes, the employees at the Covina Service Center take part in a number of fundraisers each year, including the Toys N’ Joys holiday program sponsored by the McKinley Children's Center in San Dimas where they adopt foster children and purchase gifts for them.
Throughout the month of April, they will be collecting blankets for Blankets for Brianna, a nonprofit that provides blankets to hospitals for stillborn babies or babies in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). And in October, the service center employees also will help coordinate a team for the CHOC Walk at Disneyland that helps the CHOC Children’s Foundation.
For Morrison-Young, Grants Wishes now holds a special place in her heart, and she has continued to keep in touch with Sullivan.
“Other wish organizations grant one wish, usually when they are first diagnosed. Grants Wishes aims to lift the child's spirit when they find out that the cancer is back,” she said. “Grants Wishes is a small nonprofit completely run by volunteers who spend countless hours fulfilling these wishes. By donating to this agency, you get to help make that child happy once again.”