Changing Lives With Make-A-Wish North Texas CEO Kim Elenez

Kim Elenez | Image by Make-A-WIsh America

The Dallas Express recently spoke with Kim Elenez, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish North Texas, to see how the local nonprofit impacts young people’s lives as well as the community.

The biggest surprise for most people is that the organization does not just serve terminally ill children, as many are under the impression that Make-A-Wish is solely for children who struggle with an incurable medical condition.

“It’s been a long time since Make-A-Wish only granted the wishes of children with terminal illnesses. A lot of people still have this perception that if you get a wish, that means the child is not going to survive. But that hasn’t been the case for a really long time. We do know children who don’t survive their illness, but we have an extraordinary, dominating number of kids who do — and we credit that to medical advancements,” Elenez told DX.

Make-A-Wish North Texas covers 161 Texas counties, traversing “from Dallas to Fort Worth to Amarillo to Lubbock to Odessa to El Paso,” stated Elenez.

The organization’s geographical area is significant, and so is its impact. The local chapter granted 634 wishes in 2023. The number steadily grows each year, with Elenez noting that its “ability to match that need is the thing that keeps us up at night.”

Elenez stressed that they are a 100% locally funded nonprofit organization. “There is no great big funder that is making all this happen. It is our local community coming together to say, ‘We believe wishes work.’” In addition to donations, Elenez noted that “volunteers are an essential component [that serve] as a catalyst for us being able to do what we do.”

Elenez sees Make-A-Wish North Texas as a bridge builder for the community.

“That’s what we do here. We are community builders. You know a child on your street, in your family, in your kid’s school. When something happens, people want something to do. They want to help, and there’s really not much you can do to help. We all certainly love casseroles and bringing food over, but what can we really do to make a transformational impact when we feel so helpless? At Make-A-Wish, we’re those community enablers,” explained Elenez.

“Volunteers, contractors, wish managers, the entire family, the entire community come together to help grant a wish,” she told DX.

Elenez described two important ways in which Make-A-Wish impacts the community.

“One, if you ask the medical community with which we partner, I think most, if not all of them, would say that we’re an essential part of the care plan. We are the good news card that they get to throw in when there’s not a whole lot of good news flowing. Two, we get to show people that even when things are bad, there can also be good,” stated Elenez.

When asked what types of wishes children usually request, Elenez noted that the most commonly requested wishes are for trips to Disney World and Disneyland.

“We have a great forever partnership with Disney. They just know how to make a child feel special,” said Elenez. “They know how to bring something magical to life, and they’re a powerful brand. Most kids think of Disney as their wonderland. If they can imagine going anywhere, they imagine going there.”

Regarding the types of things children wish for, Elenez said, “The child’s imagination and creativity are boundless.”

“Illness knows no socioeconomic parameters. Many of our kids have never left the state of Texas, so the idea of getting to go on an airplane and go somewhere is quite significant. Travel is big, but some kids want a puppy or to take home their best friend — maybe they want a horse. Many of our kids don’t leave their houses very much, so we redo their bedrooms to be a magical experience or build a playhouse in the backyard,” Elenez told DX.

Make-A-Wish North Texas offers experiences to provide a break from the often overarching focus on illness.

“What so many of [the families] tell us is that the wish experience gave them a chance and the space to forget the sickness for a little while, to forget the issues that came along with it. We really look at that as a great gift of our ability to play a positive role in creating some great memories,” explained Elenez.

“If a child can dream it, we’ll do what we can to make it happen.”

To donate to Make-A-Wish North Texas, click here, or to refer a child, click here.

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