Pennies in fountains and birthday candles only go so far. That's why there is Wishes Can Happen.

Pennies in fountains and birthday candles only go so far.

That’s why there is Wishes Can Happen.

Founded in 1982, the North Canton-based nonprofit organization is dedicated to making life-changing wishes come true for children and young adults facing life-threatening illnesses. Those wishes, when granted, change the lives of children and their families.

Few know that better than photographer Lee Spencer. His sister, Amy Spencer, was one of the first to have her wish granted through the Wishes Can Happen organization.

“Her wish was a to have a piano and learn piano lessons,” Lee’s wife Tammy Spencer said. “That’s what they granted her and her parents still have the piano. We know what it meant to our family to have that wish granted, so we raise money to help grant others’ wishes.”

Every year, in memory of Amy and in honor of all that the local organization can do to lift the spirits of children and families, the Spencers host a photo party fundraiser for Wishes Can Happen. In this, it’s fifth year, the event is planned around a 1960s theme and has been dubbed Woodstock for Wishes. It is planned for April 18.

“It’s just meant to be a fun, family experience,” said Tammy who serves as director of business operations for Lee Spencer Photography. “Wanted to see if the concept worked and, now, it just keeps growing.”

Every year, guests ham it up for the camera, posing for pictures with props that fit the event’s theme. Last year, children and adults posed with giant cupcakes, lollipops and board game pieces as part of Candy Land theme.

“The picture part is totally free with fun and wacky props,” Tammy said. “It’s about having fun with family and co-workers.”

But there’s more to the event.

The Spencers have partnered with other area businesses and organizations including the Jackson-Belden Chamber of Commerce to help raise money for Wishes Can Happen. A silent auction will be available the day of the event and guests can purchase raffle tickets for baskets, buy a gift card from the Giving Tree or grab a treat at the bake sale.

There is also plenty of fun for kids. Children can make crafts, design a tie-dye T-shirt or participate in fun science experiments with a representative from Mad Science of NEO.

Madelyn Sweeney, communications director for Wishes Can Happen, said the event has grown tremendously over the years. It’s become a very important part of the work Wishes Can Happen does daily.

“Because of Tammy and Lee that we are able to do that,” Sweeney said of the many wishes granted by the organization. “There are many wish granting organization across the (United States) that don’t have funds for wishes. As a result they have waiting lists and have to turn people away. With Wishes Can Happen, our community is so generous we have never had to do that.”

On average, each wish granted by Wishes Can Happen costs $4,710. Because the organization is staffed by volunteers nearly all of the money donated to the organization is put toward the wishes it makes come true.

And those wishes are incredibly important to the children and families battling life-threatening illnesses.

“Sometimes, (the wish) gives the child the strength they need to make it through painful procedures and tests … it gives them a light at the end of the tunnel,” Sweeney said. “It gives them hope … (and) don’t we all want to give our children hope?”

To learn more about Wishes Can Happen and opportunities to donate or volunteer with the organization visit

Woodstock for Wishes is set for 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 18. All ages are welcome to attend and guests can come and go at any time. For more information about the event contact Tammy Spencer at 330-499-1665 or log on to the event Facebook page