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Frequently Asked Questions


Does “life-threatening” mean “terminal?”  
No! Make-A-Wish® has sometimes been incorrectly portrayed as an organization that grants wishes to children who are terminally ill. Our eligibility criteria stipulate that a child must be diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition, not a terminal condition. Many wish kids go on to lead fulfilling lives after their Make-A-Wish experience. The wish process is a way to honor the difficult journey they’re going through and the courage they’ve shown to face it. It’s a very life-affirming process that enriches the human experience with hope, strength and joy. Our wish children who are now adults would attest to this!

Who is eligible for a wish? 
To be eligible for a wish from Make-A-Wish, a child must be between the ages of two-and-a-half and under the age of 18 years at the time of referral and have a life-threatening medical condition that will be verified by their physician. Any child who has already been granted a wish by Make-A-Wish or another wish-granting organization is not eligible for a second wish.

Are a family’s income or financial resources considered? 
The income of a family plays no part in determining a child’s eligibility for a wish.

What can a child wish for? 
Wishes typically fall into one of four categories
* An experience wish: I wish to be…a ballerina, a model, a superhero, a police officer…
* A travel wish: I wish to go… to Orlando, Hawaii, Europe, on a cruise...
* A celebrity wish: I wish to meet…a sports idol, a favorite band, a movie star…
* An object wish: I wish to have…a shopping spree, room makeover, my very own computer…

All wishes must be appropriate for your child’s age and medical condition. The Foundation will make every effort to make your child’s primary wish come true; however, we do ask that the child have a secondary choice in mind in the event that we cannot grant the first one.

What's the most unusual wish you've ever done?
There have been several - we've sent a child to visit "where eagles live," had a child experience a landing and take-off from the deck of an aircraft carrier, granted a request for a dinosaur statue, made it possible for a child to be a football player for a day and finally, made a little boy into a superhero.

Doesn't Make-A-Wish just send kids to Walt Disney World®?
No, Disney wishes are just 56% of all the wishes we do. Other popular requests include computers, shopping sprees, trips to Hawaii, celebrity meetings and swimming pools.

Are there restrictions on a wish?
A wish is limited only by the child’s imagination. To be sure that each child gains the maximum benefit of a wish experience, we work with the child’s physician to determine the appropriateness and the timing of the wish.

What if the child becomes sick again? Can they have another wish? 
No, every eligible child may have one wish from Make-A-Wish. In addition, if a child has received a wish from another wish granting organization, they are ineligible to receive a wish from Make-A-Wish.

Are all wishes publicized?
No, families can choose whether they will allow publicity of the wish. We always respect their need for privacy.

What if a child has special medical needs during a wish?
If a child has special medical needs during a wish, they are discussed with the physician and family beforehand and provided for by Make-A-Wish as needed.

Does Make-A-Wish participate in chain letter wishes? 
No. Each day, Make-A-Wish and its chapters receive hundreds of inquiries about chain letters claiming to be associated with Make-A-Wish and featuring sick children. However, we do not participate in these kinds of wishes. Some names associated with these wishes are: Jessie Anderson, Shane Bernier, Chad Briody , Amy Bruce, Jeff DeLeon, Rhyan Desquetado, Anthony Hebrank, LaNisha Jackson, Nikisha Johnson, Craig Sheldon, Craig Shelford, Craig Shelton, Craig Sheppard, Craig Shergold, Bryan Warner and Kayla Wightman. Please click here if you’d like more information about chain letters.


Referring A Child

How do you find the children?
The wish children are referred to us by their parents, physician, social worker, teacher or neighbor. Some kids even refer themselves. Anyone can contact us about how to refer a child to Make-A-Wish. But the family needs to be aware of and agree to the referral.

Are all of the children terminal? 
No, Make-A-Wish fulfills wishes for children with critical illnesses. A great majority of the children we have helped are still alive today. 

What illnesses qualify a child for a wish? 
Conditions that generally qualify children for our services include, but are not limited to, various forms of cancer, heart disease, Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy and organ transplants. Children with more chronic conditions like cerebral palsy, Crohn’s disease or spina bifida may qualify if their conditions are coupled with other complications and the combination is considered life-threatening.

How do I refer a child? 
Contact our chapter at or at 877-599-9474.


What volunteer opportunities are available?
Make-A-Wish depends on the help of volunteers in every aspect of our work. Volunteers are involved in wish granting, fundraising, special events and providing administrative support in our offices. 

What type of training do volunteers receive? 
Wish granting volunteers undergo extensive training on wish granting procedures, working with sick children and how to handle emergencies that could arise during a wish. All volunteers who come into contact with wish families must undergo a criminal background check.

What is the expected time commitment?
Volunteer commitments vary depending upon the role you accept. We make every effort to match your availability and level of commitment with the needs of your volunteer assignment.

Are volunteers directly involved with wish children and families?
Wish granting volunteers have the highest level of involvement with children and their families. They make the initial contact with the family, work with the child to determine their heartfelt wish, and coordinate the wish granting details with Make-A-Wish staff. New wish granting volunteers undergo training and are partnered with an experienced volunteer to ensure that they are comfortable during the first meetings with the families.

How do I become a volunteer?
Contact our Volunteer Coordinator for more information.


How do you pay for the wishes?
We rely entirely on private donations from individuals, companies, foundations, schools and corporations. We receive no government funds or grants.

How much of my donation actually goes towards the cost of wishes
100% if you so designate. Our Wishmaker program makes it possible for you to direct your entire contribution to the cost of wishes.   

How much of Make-A-Wish's funds are spent on wishes? 
More than 85% of all funds received go towards fulfilling wishes. 

How are the rest of Make-A-Wish's funds spent? 
9.9% is used on fund raising, 4.6% is used on administration and as stated above, more than 85% are used to make wishes come true. 

Does Make-A-Wish conduct telemarketing campaigns? 
No, the Foundation has a policy against telemarketing because it is considered intrusive and not cost-effective. However, be careful of sound-alike organizations that conduct aggressive telemarketing campaigns. Many donors are confused and think they are donating to Make-A-Wish. They are not. 

Will my donation help local children or will it be sent to your national organization? 
Donations raised in our chapter territory stay local to help fund wish granting of children in our area. Donors can request that their donation be restricted to a specific geographic area, if desired. 

Do you receive funding from the United Way? 
While Make-A-Wish is not a United Way agency, we do participate in its Contributor’s Choice program in many of the counties it serves.  

Can I donate my airline mileage to Make-A-Wish?  
Yes! Your donation of airline mileage can help us grant thousands of travel wishes. To donate your miles, please click here.   

Can my financial contribution be tax deductible?  
Yes. Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. As such, financial contributions may be deductible for federal income tax purposes. Please consult with your financial advisor to determine the extent of tax deductibility. 

Can I have a fundraiser to benefit Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic?  
Yes! You can have an event or promotion of your own or get your friends, family, company, or community involved. 

To find out how, check out our fundraising page. If you have any additional questions not addressed here, please do not hesitate to contact us: 301-962-9474 or at


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Make-A-Wish® Mid-Atlantic, Inc.
6555 Rock Spring Drive
Suite 280
Bethesda, MD 20817
(301) 962-9474
After Hours Nightline (301) 962-9474