Students Help Grant Wishes

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Newport Beach kids are granting wishes using money from their piggy banks, lemonade stands, bake sales and even their birthday money.

Newport Coast Elementary and Corona del Mar High School both raised $4,000 this year to grant two kids’ wishes through Make-A-Wish foundation.

Newport Coast was the only grade school (kindergarten through sixth grades) in Orange County to raise enough money to grant a wish this year.

“They really poured their hearts out,” Make-A-Wish mom Arax Levonian said about the students at Newport Coast Elementary.

Stephanie Davidson's 5th grade class show off their Make-A-Wish plaque. —Photo by Arax Levonian

The elementary school’s MAW fundraising project was primarily a 5th grade project, headed up by Stephanie Davidson’s class, but it was a school-wide effort.

Davidson’s class has raised money for the foundation before, as well as other charities, Levonian said, but this was the first time they were able to generate enough to grant a wish in just one year.

Davison’s class does some kind of charity fundraising project every year, she said, and this year Levonian volunteered to be the mom in charge of the project.

It took a lot dedication and hard work from the students, she added.

The older students at CdM know exactly how much work it takes, this was school’s Make-A-Wish Club’s ninth consecutive year granting a wish. The school has been working with MAW since 2000.

“Each year we have a goal to raise $4,000 (or more) to give to the foundation and choose a wish to sponsor,” said CdM senior Kiara Daswani. She and junior Afaf Moustafa are co-presidents of the on-campus club.

(left tor ight) Club co-president Kiara Daswani, MAW development coordinator Tina Robinette, and club co-president Afaf Moustafa pose with the plaque about the child and wish that CdM club granted. —Photo by Sara Hall

“I really like the foundation,” Daswani said. “It’s a really great cause.”

Daswani said she became more involved when the group visited kids at the HealthBridge Children’s Hospital in Costa Mesa.

“Meeting the kids and getting inspired by them,” she said, “that’s what kept me doing it.”

The CdM club and the students at Newport Coast Elementary both used a variety of fundraising methods to collect enough cash to grant the wishes.

The Newport Coast 5th graders and their schoolmates put a collection box in their classrooms, sent notes home to teachers, held lemonade stands and bake sales and other fundraising functions.

Some students from Newport Coast Elementary School work at their lemonade stand to earn money for the wish they sponsored. —Photo by Arax Levonian

Levonian told them every penny counts, and each and every one did., they held a penny drive that brought in $330.

They even brought in their piggy banks and gave up birthday money, Levonian said. Her son, 5th grader Sevan, collected $350 by recycling bottles he gathered from classmates and neighbors.

The high school club held a car wash the first weekend of every month, participated in a See’s Candies drive, and sold baked goods at school functions.

“It all usually adds up to $4,000,” Daswani said.

Any overflow of funds gets held for next year’s wish mission, she added.

The Corona del Mar club chose to grant a young girl’s wish of a shopping spree. The elementary school students chose a 9-year-old Newport Beach boy who wanted to visit Atlantis and swim with the dolphins.

Suzy Hermes becomes emotional as she speaks to the MAW club at Corona del Mar High School as her daughter Noel looks on. Hermes said it's people like the CdM students, who don't even know the child or family they are helping grant the wish for, that make the whole MAW process more special. —Photo by Sara Hall

Both groups had a ceremony with Make-A-Wish officials presenting them with a plaque and thanking them for their efforts. Both events included a special guest: A child and parent from the MAW foundation. Although the CdM group has met with the actual child they granted the wish for once in the past, it’s rare, because scheduling, medical and other reasons.

Levonian said the Make-A-Wish project emphasizes the importance of helping others. The kids of today are the leaders of tomorrow, she said.

Club advisor Denise Weiland (back, middle) and students listen to Suzy Hermes' story about her family's experience with her daughter's disease and Make-A-Wish. —Photo by Sara Hall

It’s important they learn the importance of giving back while they’re young, she added.

“They give a little now and they can give a lot tomorrow,” she said.

She also wanted to teach her son, as well as the other students, that giving back and helping others less fortunate means more than just writing a check and dropping it off. Donating money is still very helpful, she added, and there were many parents who contributed, but she thought it was important that the kids learned to work to earn the money.

“Kids need to learn to help others and be selfless,” she said. “I wanted (my son) to work from his heart…I wanted him (and the other students) to give from (their) hearts.”

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