JACKSON TWP.  The 12th annual Wish-a-Thon fundraiser for Wishes Can Happen was held in the Springbrook Plaza on Whipple Avenue Northwest on Aug. 8 and 9 this year. The fundraiser is held once a year in the summer and is a 36 hour marathon. Proceeds go to the local Wishes Can Happen organization in North Canton.

It’s hosted by WHBC and Mix 94.1 and Aultcare. Community Relations Director for Wishes Can Happen Madelyn Sweeney said that the goal this year was to raise enough to grant 40 wishes. Last year, it raised enough money for 35 wishes.

Founded by Cyndi Morrow in 1982, Wishes Can Happen is a nonprofit organization located in North Canton. It’s an all-volunteer group that works to grant wishes to children with life threatening illnesses in Ohio. The organization’s objective is to put a smile on the faces of its wish children and create a happy memory for their family. The group has granted more than 1,500 wishes.

“We are so fortunate to live in this area,” Morrow said. “Stark County is so generous. We couldn’t do this without everyone’s support. It doesn’t get any less emotional over the years. We love every child and are always so happy to grant their wishes.

“The wishes give the kids something to look forward to and it gives the family great memories. We grant a lot of wishes for Disney trips, we’ve done bedroom makeovers, trips to the beach, puppies and shopping sprees over the years.”

Blake Stutzman stopped by to share his story about his wish that he received in mid-July. He and his family went to Disney and Universal and stayed at the Give Kids the World Village where all the “wish kids” stay when they go to Disney.

“The Wishes Can Happen organization is amazing," said Blake's father, Roderick. “Blake was bit by a mosquito and got La Crosse Encephalitis. It’s a viral disease spread to people by an infected mosquito. His brain started to swell, and they eventually put him in a medically induced coma.”

Blake continued to get worst and the doctors removed part of his skull to expose the brain. They froze the skull. After Blake work up and said “hi” to everyone, the doctors replaced the skull.

Seventeen-year-old Samantha Hudzik stopped by to talk with the kids. She is entering Malone College in the fall as a theater major, she came dressed as Belle from “Beauty and the Beast.”

She and her family received a trip to Hawaii in May from Wishes Can Happen. Hudzik has a chronic blood disorder called Hereditary Spherocytosis. Her father also has the same condition. She had her spleen and gallbladder removed when she was 15 years.

“I’m healthier now than I was before,” Hudzik said. “I can manage the symptoms from this point. I thought coming to the fundraiser dressed as Belle would be an opportunity for me to meet and to give back to some of the kids here today.”

Volunteers at the fundraiser were taking donations by telephone or people could stop by in person and give donations. There was an area designated as a donation drive up for people to stop and donate without getting out of their car.

For more information about or to make a donation to Wishes Can Happen, visit the website at https://wishescanhappen.org/.