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Saturday, the Make-a-Wish Foundation Sacramento and Northeastern California chapter hosted the elegant 23rd Annual Winter Wine & Food Fest, featuring tasting from 120 regional wineries, breweries and restaurants.
The event also offered live music by classic cover band Over the Edge Band, a silent auction hosted by Dave Thompson from MIX 96 and a VIP live auction. The proceeds from sponsors, auction items and ticket sales will help grant wishes to local children “with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.”
This year, the Make-A-Wish Foundation Sacramento and Northeastern California chapter will grant approximately 230 wishes. The goal of the event was to raise approximately $500,000, enough funds to grant about 100 wishes for local children.
“Final numbers aren’t in yet,” newly appointed Director of Development Lea Ann Carlisle said. “But we are very happy with the way things went and (we are) feeling positive about the results.
“Make-A-Wish grants wishes to every medically eligible child” she added. “We won’t turn anyone away. So if more were referred to us, we would seek out other funding to make sure it happens. (The) average cash cost of a wish is about $5,000, so we also seek donors who will ‘adopt’ a wish.”
Held at the Sacramento Convention Center, the fest is the regional organization’s largest fundraising and wish-granting event. With several loyal supports and a few new organizers this year, including Carlisle and Make-a-Wish’s new regional CEO, Kennan Bridge, there was a new style and aura to the historic event, which included a red carpet and “star-studded” interior design, which “ ties into what we do, because our children are stars,” according to Carlisle.
Many area vendors and sponsors collaborated to make the event a success. Supporters included the board of directors, chairs and volunteers, as well as local business owners and working participants who donated their time for the good cause.
One such volunteer vender was Bassil Kamas, a massage therapist from Fair Oaks. Next to several of the wineries and other vendors at the event, Kamas set up his massage chair, where he offered deep-tissue and neck and shoulder massages for more than 30 attendees.
“I got involved because I always like to give back to the community, and what better way to do it through reputable charity events?” Kamas said.
“You really see the best of people in their association for Make-A-Wish,” Carlisle said. “We have a lot of supporters who have been touched by a wish themselves or family members who have been touched by a wish. So many people are touched by our mission and personally experience the magic that we provide.”
Inspired by her life-enhancing story, this year’s Winter Wine & Food Fest planning committee chose to honor 2011 Wish Ambassador Samanatha Louie, who was diagnosed with Biliary Atresia as an infant. Despite several food allergies, her dream has been to learn to be a chef. As a Make-a-Wish Foundation grantee, Louie was able to fulfill this dream by giving her the opportunity to take cooking classes in Italy.
“My expectations don’t include anything special, I am just happy that I have a special chance to have a wish,” she wrote in the event program. “Life is sometimes a hard struggle, but this wish made my life happier. I wanted to be a chef for a long time, but I’m allergic to so many foods … Cooking in Italy makes me even happier, and cooking with my family in Italy is the best thing that could ever happen to me.”
Many of these 100 wishes will be made at the newly built “Wishing Place” at the Make-a-Wish facility in Natomas, one of three Wishing Places in the United States, and the only Wishing Place on the West Coast.
Since the facility was built 14 months ago, about 85 percent of children referred to Make-a-Wish visit the Wishing Place, a magical room filled with stars. Once there, the children are given a coin and key and then make one of several kinds of wishes that include: “I want to be…,” “I want to meet…,” “I wish to have…,” “I wish to go…” and “I wish to give…,” where children can wish to give a gift to a loved one.
“(It’s) amazing that in this economy, with all the challenges people are facing, how it takes children to remind us what really matters,” Carlisle said.
You can learn about future Make-a-Wish events and ways to help grant more wishes by visiting: www.makeawish-sacto.org/