Four years ago, Make-A-Wish® Toronto & Central Ontario helped bring magic to a four-year-old boy suffering from a life-threatening heart condition, whose wish was to become a firefighter. At that time, no one realized the ripple effect this gesture would have on an entire community.
When Central York Fire Services fire captain, Shaun Mitchell, met wish kid, Owen, the connection was instantaneous. Shaun escorted Owen on his wish day; he picked the little boy up in a real fire truck, outfitted him with his own uniform and even trained with him as a real firefighter. Shaun’s wife, Shalini, also accompanied her husband on the wish, in an effort to learn more about the foundation and its work to grant wishes for kids with life-threatening illnesses. Shalini had just returned to work after giving birth to her son, which made her connection to Owen and his wish that much stronger.
The Mitchells didn’t walk away from Owen’s family after the wish was completed — they stayed in touch long after that spring day in 2012, and a friendship bloomed. In fact, that very summer, Shaun and Owen’s father formed a fundraising team called ‘Team Owen’s Heart’ and recruited family and friends to join them in rappelling in the first ever Rope for Hope event in Toronto. Their efforts proved such a success that the team has gone on to rappel every year that followed.
In the fall of 2014, the Mitchells attended the launch of The Mighty O! — a children’s book released about Owen and his magical wish. At this point, Shalini was still looking for ways to become involved with the foundation. Around the same time, the team at Make-A-Wish began recruiting a volunteer committee to support Rope for Hope, with a specific focus on securing in-kind sponsorships to elevate the event. Keeping Shalini’s skills and experience in marketing and communications in mind, the Toronto & Central Ontario Chapter invited her to join the committee, which she did with instant enthusiasm — this was her chance to make a big difference.
That’s how Shalini first entered the world of Make-A-Wish volunteers. In fact, not only did she work her internal network, reaching out for donations and support, she also signed up to rappel at the 2015 Rope for Hope event! And her efforts paid off. Shalini was able to secure donations for her rappel and also built a team of 14 enthusiastic women (including her sister-in-law, Veronica), to create ‘Team Women Wish Granters’.
“We built a team with incredible female camaraderie, despite our busy schedules. I made new friends, reconnected with old ones and learned so much along the way. I am so grateful to Make-A-Wish for this opportunity that brought us all together.”
Team Women Wish Granters has gone on to become the largest community team in the history of Rope for Hope in Toronto, raising an outstanding $30,000 in their first year alone, helping to grant three magical wishes! And the best part is, they’re back for another rappel on June 10 — this time with a larger team.
Owen’s wish story continues to inspire the Mitchells and the teams they’ve built as a result of that one magical day in April 2012. The little boy who wanted to become a firefighter remains at the heart of all the efforts put forward by Shalini for Make-A-Wish, Shaun and the community that works together to help grant wishes for children with life-threatening medical conditions.
Never underestimate the power of a wish granted!
If you're interested in taking part in Make-A-Wish®Rope for Hope, click here.