Philip Stefanini is a typical fun-loving Millsboro boy who loves to paint and is passionate about everything to do with NASCAR. He’s different from many of his school friends, however, because he has a genetic condition that, amongst other things, makes his muscles weak and uncoordinated, and his eyes sensitive to the sun.
When Philip was 10 years old, he was referred by his doctors to Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic (MAW) as a child with a life-threatening medical condition who deserved the joy they knew wishes bring.
When Philip met his two volunteer wish-granters, they suggested he play a game to help him think through what his best wish in the world would be. Philip didn’t need the game. He knew immediately what he wanted for his special wish: to go to the Daytona 500.
Shortly before it was time for Philip and his family to fly to Florida, his wish-granters returned to give him a send-off party. They gave him a specially decorated Daytona cake, and he surprised each of them with a painting of his vision of his three favorite race car drivers whizzing around the track.
“I loved it,” said Philip on his return, with a perpetual beam on his face. “I got to sit in some of the cars, meet lots of people, and the pool at the hotel was the best! It was excellent.”
So when Make-A-Wish (MAW) decided to participate in Walk for Wishes, a Delaware-focused multi-charity fundraising event at the Dover International Speedway, Philip was a naturel to be named Sussex County’s honorary team captain. All the proceeds from the event will go to Wish-kids from Delaware.
“I’m excited,” said Philip about being team captain. “My name and photos of me are on the website. I hope people support me.”
Walk for Wishes is a community-wide celebration designed to raise awareness and funds so that MAW can continue to serve local children. Walkers of all ages will come together on Saturday Oct. 19, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at one of NASCAR’s most unique venues. They will enjoy a day that includes the mile-long walk around the track itself, entertainment and ongoing family-fun festivities.
To support Philip, go to the website www.walkforwishesDE.org and enter his name in the “Find a participant and donate” section. Or, even better, register yourself or a team of friends, and walk for wishes with Philip in Dover. It will be a fun time! It costs just $10 to sign up and register. All participants who raise $75 or more receive a Walk for Wishes T-shirt.
Cindy Stinger is one who has already signed up herself and her sons to walk. Stinger has been a “lunch lady” at several local elementary schools and knows a couple of wish recipients.
“It is such a great cause, and when you hear one of the children describe how happy their wish has made them, you do what you can to help,” she said.
David and Karen Jayne are also big sponsors of the event. As well as donating, they volunteered to have fliers about Walk for Wishes available at their store in Dagsboro, Jayne’s Reliable.
“We’ll tell our customers all about it,” said David Jayne, whose mom’s career was spent working with children with disabilities.
Founded in 1983, MAW Mid-Atlantic has granted more than 7,800 wishes, with 600 coming from Delaware. So far in 2013, 28 children have experienced their wishes, of whom six live in Sussex County. Currently, 11 more Sussex County children are looking forward to trips to Disney parks, shopping sprees and whatever else has piqued their fancy.
The average cost for each wish is now more than $7,500. The wish includes all expenses. There is no means testing or, with rare exception, wish limitation. If a child meets the medical criteria and their doctor approves, they are eligible. The wish is the child’s choice, not their mom and dad’s.
For many children whose lives have been regulated by treatment for cancer, blood and breathing disorders, or heart and kidney malfunctioning, choosing a wish that is theirs alone is empowering in itself.
Many of the wishes involve airline travel, and one very helpful way to help MAW is to donate any extra frequent-flyer miles that you have received and may expire before you’re ready to use them.
There are other ways to help Delaware Wish-kids, too. You can become a volunteer, receive training and work directly with children as a wish-granter. You can create a fund-raising event at your work or social group or restaurant and have a MAW volunteer come and give a short talk about the organization.
You can also support Macy’s Believe Campaign, in which the store donates a dollar for every child’s letter to Santa dropped in one of their boxes. MAW volunteers retrieve the Christmas-wish letters and are particularly thrilled when they find the boxes stuffed with whole classrooms-full of letters.
If you want to support Philip and the Walk for Wishes but are leery about donating online, the address to mail a check is: Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic, Delaware, 3519 Silverside Road, Ridgely Building, Suite 100, Wilmington, DE 19810. The MAW phone number to call for any information is (302) 475-9474.