What the experts say

What the experts say

Hope can be a rare commodity for children battling a life-threatening illness. Kids miss just being kids. Their hope starts to fade. We know a Make-A-Wish wish can bring their hope back. And so can you.Kael, 4, diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, wished to meet his favourite superheroes.

The power of a wish

The impact of a wish is undeniable. At Make-A-Wish we see it every day – in stories from children themselves, letters from parents, and feedback from hard-working volunteers.

But don’t just take our word for it.

Wish Impact Studies from around the world reveal that a wish is a powerful psychological intervention in the life of a child with a life-threatening illness.

In 2015, Make-A-Wish Israel engaged researchers to look into the effects of a wish on children with cancer.

In a formal randomised controlled trial, the research team studied 66 children aged five to 12 who had an initial diagnosis of life-threatening cancer. Half of these children experienced a wish journey, while the other half were a control group who didn’t receive a wish.

Each child completed measures of psychiatric and health-related symptoms, positive and negative effect, hope and optimism, before and after their wish.

The results?

Overall, the children who experienced a wish showed a significant reduction in general distress, depression and anxiety symptoms. What’s more, these feelings were replaced with a greater general sense of hope for their future and positive emotions.

On the physical side, the children who experienced a wish also demonstrated greater health-related quality of life, including a significant reduction in their perceptions of their own physical limitations. 

Research findings over the past five years

  • Children who receive a wish have higher levels of hope regarding the future
  • Wishing enables children to dream about something that seems unobtainable, out of reach – and therefore creates an experience of achieving the ‘impossible’
  • A wish is seen by wish families as a motivator for coping and hope for the future
  • 97% of families surveyed reported a noticeable improvement in their child’s mental and emotional health following a wish experience
  • 75% of children experienced an improvement in their physical health, involving increased strength and willingness to get stronger to overcome their condition
  • Benefit to parents: 93% of parents felt an increased sense of empowerment and improved ability to cope with the illness and situation
  • Benefit to siblings: 92% of parents affirmed a reduction in anxiety and fear among the wish child’s siblings

- 2011 International Wish Impact Study, and 2015 Study “The effects of the Make-A-Wish intervention on psychiatric symptoms and health related quality of life of children with cancer” by Anat Shoshani, Keren Milfano, Johanna Czamanski-Cohen, October 2015.

When a child and family are faced with a life-threatening diagnosis, I have no doubt that a wish makes all the difference in their treatment journey.

Time and time over, I’ve seen the wonderful effect of a wish – not just happiness, but true, long-lasting joy. This joy and sense of hope is so important in their recovery and healing.

 - Dr Margaret Litttle, Paediatric Oncologist, Lady Cilento Children's Hospital, Brisbane,  Australia.