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Sun, Feb. 16

Local event raises funds for Make-A-Wish group

To raise money and awareness for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Arizona, this is Wish Week in the Grand Canyon and Tusayan communities.

According to Beth Seely, development director for Make A Wish in northern Arizona, area businesses have been generous with their support, particularly the Squire Inn which is hosting a movie, "The Blue Butterfly," tomorrow at 7 p.m. The admission is $5 and includes popcorn and beverages.

"Businesses have been incredibly responsive to the request," Seely said. She noted that the Café Tusayan, Grand Hotel, Quality Inn, Red Feather Lodge and Seven Mile Lodge have also made outright donations or have pledged to donate a percentage of proceeds from room rentals this week.

"The Blue Butterfly" is the story of a critically-ill, wheelchair-bound boy who turns to an entomologist for help realizing his deepest wish ­ to travel to the Costa Rican rainforest in search of a rare Blue Morpho butterfly. The movie, which stars William Hurt and Marc Donato, was the official 2004 selection of the Tribeca Film Festival and the Mill Valley Film Festival.

The Make-A-Wish Foun-dation grants wishes to children suffering life-threatening medical conditions. Its goal, according to Seely, is "to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy."

Country star Kevin Sharp is an example of the affirming nature of a granted wish. As a teen, he was diagnosed with bone cancer and the prognosis was not good. His wish, to make a record, led to a friendship with music producer David Foster who inspired the young man and opened doors for his successful career. Sharp's cancer went into remission in 1991.

"When he was back in the hospital, the record company came out to see him and get him out of bed to make more records," said Seely. "He found the strength in that drive to do something."

The Arizona chapter of Make-A-Wish in northern Arizona covers Coconino, Yavapai, Navajo, Mojave and Apache counties ­ pretty much everything north of Phoenix, Seely said. There are 16 youngsters for whom wishes are pending. The average wish costs about $6,000 and includes the immediate family of the wish child.

"Sometimes a child wants to visit grandparents in another part of the country," she said. "Some want to go to Disneyland or Disney World, or to go to Hawaii and swim with dolphins. Sometimes they want to meet someone from television or a sports figure they admire."

One boy who wanted to conduct the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra was treated to three days of preparation with the conductor before getting his chance.

Since its inception in the early 1980s, the organization has granted more than 144,000 wishes.

The organization is in the process of granting its 2,800th wish in the state, with the support of Arizona Highway Patrolmen's Association, to send a Flagstaff teen and his family on a cruise to the Bahamas.

While financial donations make wishes possible, they also require contributions of time.

"We have volunteers in different areas," said Seely. "We need people to help at events, such as the April Walk for Wishes in Flagstaff and also people to go in pairs to meet with applicants and do the work to organize a wish."

Volunteers must go through a screening process and training, which the organization provides.

For more information, contact Seely, who lives here in Tusayan, at 928-606-5827 or call the Phoenix Make-A-Wish at 800-324-9474.

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