If you've ever wondered about unanticipated ways in which your charitable giving pays off, here's one to think about.
We asked the Make-a-Wish Foundation about some of the folks who have been granted wishes while seriously ill. Did anyone notice a long-term impact on the illness, or on his or her outlook on life?
It turns out that a report on adults who were granted wishes as children found that the experiences sustained them years after they were cured of their diseases, according to a survey conducted by TCC Group in Philadelphia for the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
A young wish recipient offered this: "If I hadn't had cancer, I wouldn't have gone to Paris."
Halle Middleton, an 11-year-old Valley Forge Middle Schooler who was diagnosed with brain cancer when she was just 6 years old, was getting chemotherapy treatment when she got her wish to go to the City of Light through the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Philadelphia.
Although she was feeling very weak, Halle says, "my wish gave me something huge to look forward to. I got to think about my fabulous trip for a whole year while I went through my yucky chemo, got stuck with needles, and overall felt sick. It takes something really big to distract you from all of that."
Jim Topper, now 29, got his wish in 2001 for a family trip to Alaska. At 15, he had been diagnosed with a germinoma that disseminated to the spine (in lay terms, brain tumors that were discovered to be inoperable).
Topper's social worker at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia nominated him for Make-a-Wish. His family thought Make-a-Wish was for the terminally ill, and he was planning for a full recovery.
But the organization fulfills wishes for children up to 18 years old with life-threatening medical conditions, not just terminal illnesses. Topper was about to undergo six weeks of radiation treatment.
"Deciding on my wish and planning for it allowed light at the end of the tunnel. I knew that at the end of my treatment, I would have a trip to Alaska with my family. It helped sustain my positive outlook."
Today, Topper is married with a daughter and working at a hospital residency after graduating from Jefferson Medical College.
For her wish in 1995, Kimberly Matthews, now 37, met Shaquille O'Neal.
In and out of Penn State Hershey Medical Center from the time she was a toddler (with an ailment she did not wish to disclose), when Matthews turned 16 doctors told her parents she might not live to adulthood. Her sister contacted Make-a-Wish and began to plan a meeting with O'Neal in Florida.
"There are good days and bad days, and you have to use the good days to the best of your ability," said Matthews.
"Traveling to meet Shaquille O'Neal made me realize that I was allowed to have fun and live in the moment. When you are sick, you forget that feeling normal, enjoying life, if even for a day, a week, is the best gift."
These days, she is a teacher working out of Children's Hospital at Penn State Hershey Medical Center.
Senalda Grauber, whose 6-year-old son Charlie suffers from a heart defect, traveled with him and his siblings to Walt Disney World last spring. She agrees that a time without worry is key.
"Just to be there for a week, you forget about everything else. We got to be normal," Grauber says, recalling the Make-a-Wish trip from their home in Mayfair to Florida.
At Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Halle Middleton's surgeon, Phillip Storm, and her oncologist, Tammy Kang, were the forces behind nominating her for Make-a-Wish.
"Halle is very romantic and artistic. She loves chocolate and decided to go to Paris. We were blown away when they granted us the trip," said Halle's mother, Amy Josef.
"That started to help her heal. She was coming toward the end of her chemo. The timing was that we couldn't go right away because she was really weak and skinny as a rail - she couldn't walk through the mall, never mind an international trip."
They had a year to anticipate the voyage.
"It was a turning point for her, something to look forward to and say, 'We're going. It's on the calendar.' It added to her healing. It was something incredibly positive at the end of her treatment, and the start of living again," Josef says.
The family stayed in an elegant hotel on the Left Bank, toured the Paris zoo, ran into a paparazzi-swarmed Madonna emerging from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, and visited the doll museum, Musee de la Poupee. (Pronounced poo-PAY. "That was just ripe for jokes," Josef says).
And yes, they took a side trip to Disneyland Paris, about 40 minutes outside the city center.
Halle and her family support other charities: Ronald McDonald House Philadelphia ("We lived in a Ronald McDonald House for months in Houston, when Halle needed proton therapy," her mother says), and Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation (Josef runs for Team Lemon and raises money at the Broad Street Run each year).
Today, Halle is a healthy fifth grader. She had her last MRI in May and has been in remission and cancer-free for three years. She plans to return to Paris when she grows up.
And she always reminds her mother, "If I hadn't had cancer. . . ."