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main_grant_wishes_ballet_shoesWhen the time felt right to start a family, Danielle Gletow and her husband, Joe, knew they wanted to adopt, ideally through foster care. “The foster-care system gets so little attention, so we thought fostering was a great opportunity for us to help kids who really needed it,’ Gletow says. They began taking in foster children in 2006, caring for three children until they had the chance to adopt the fourth child they cared for, Mia, now 8. Two weeks after Mia came to them, Gletow discovered she was pregnant with Liliana, now 7. Knowing their hands would be full, she and her husband made the decision to stop fostering.

Still, foster children held a special place in her heart. When she and Joe began researching foster care, Gletow says she became consumed with improving the lives of kids in the system. “These children don’t have a voice or a cheerleader,’ she says. “But it’s hard for people to get involved because it seems like they can’t do much beyond actually taking in a child, and that’s a huge commitment,’ she says. But what if there was a smaller but still meaningful way anyone could help?

In the summer of 2008, while on maternity leave from her marketing job, Gletow came up with her solution: She created One Simple Wish, a nonprofit that allows people to grant the wishes of kids in foster care. Donors would visit onesimplewish.org, where they could choose a wish to fulfill and learn about the child they were helping. The wishes would be fairly small and affordable—toys, games, sneakers, movie tickets—though money from several donors could be pooled for more expensive items like a bike or electronics. “I wanted people to be able to see where their money went and feel like they were making a real contribution,’ says Gletow. The children, she believed, would be gaining not just something fun but also a sense of normalcy. “Foster kids may have so much trauma in their lives that they don’t get much of a chance to just be kids,’ she says.

Gletow started locally, connecting donors and foster children in her home state of New Jersey. She called upon friends she had made in the business world for help crafting, branding, and promoting One Simple Wish. Gletow and her husband funded the organization themselves at first (“the best investment we ever made,’ she says)—but as the nonprofit took off, they developed partnerships with companies that were eager to help. Their current list of corporate sponsors includes Hasbro, Walmart, and Wells Fargo.

The turning point in One Simple Wish’s success came in December 2012, when NBC Nightly News featured a segment on the nonprofit. Gletow was awestruck by the huge response. “It was so overwhelming that the site’s servers crashed a few times and we actually ran out of wishes to fulfill!’ she says. “That was when I realized how many people really cared about foster children and wanted to help.’

Today, Gletow feels she’s found her true calling. “It’s funny because even though I love kids, I was never the little girl who dreamed of growing up and having lots of babies,’ she says. “But when I started fostering, I found exactly who I was supposed to be.’ Running One Simple Wish is now her full-time job, and she has a staff of seven. One of the best things about it, she says, is the thank-you cards she gets from the foster children who have had their wishes granted. Recently, she received a letter from several teens who had gotten money to play in a summer football league. “They sent me a photo of themselves in their uniforms, and that image has really stuck with me,’ she says. “It feels wonderful to know you’ve given these kids a positive childhood memory.’

HOW TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

  • Fulfill a wish. Visit onesimplewish.org/grant-a-wish to search wishes from foster children across the country (most cost between $10 and $100).
  • Donate money by phone. Text WISH to 52000 and $10 will be added to your cell phone bill to help fulfill wishes.
  • Provide luggage. Many foster children have to pack their belongings in garbage bags. Learn how you can help provide a luggage set to a child in need at onesimplewish.org/carryon.

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