This year’s Wish Ball
, presented by Royal Caribbean, was about celebrating heroes – the heroes who battle life-threatening illnesses, the heroes who care for our wish kids, and the heroes who make wishes come true. As one attendee put it, the event was about transforming lives. One such life was that of Renae Goettel’s. She was born with Senior Lokens, a rare genetic disease that causes blindness and kidney failure.
Renae spoke in front of guests at the event’s VIP Fundraising Dinner, which took place at the Portland Art Museum before Wish Ball, to share the story of how her Make-A-Wish experience changed her life. She was 16 years old when Make-A-Wish granted her wish to meet two-time NBA All-Star forward Sean Elliott of the San Antonio Spurs, a fellow kidney transplant recipient. “During that time with Sean,” said Renae, “I escaped everything that had been haunting me – the pain, the sadness, uncertainty, fear of losing my kidney, and fear of losing my life.” She said she returned home from her wish with a new perspective; that the wish inspired her to set high expectations for herself, to dream big and to live life to the fullest. She went on to graduate from the Washington School for the Blind as a valedictorian and then became the first blind student to graduate from Trinity University in San Antonio. Today, Renae is 29 years old, remains close friends with Sean Elliott, is a Make-A-Wish volunteer and just completed her fifth marathon. Thirteen years after her wish, Renae said the wish experience continues to be a source of strength and joy.
Renae’s story is just one of many incredible testimonials to the impact of a wish. Several other wish kid heroes were also on hand at Wish Ball to share their stories, including 16-year-old Elijah who wished to go on a Caribbean cruise, 11-year-old Joe who wished to go to New York City, 17-year-old Madison who wished to go to Hawaii, 10-year-old Cason who wished to see a wolverine, and 7-year-old Cohen who wished to go to Walt Disney World® Resort.
A HERO’S GREETING
The newest star to join the ranks of our wish kid heroes is 4-year-old Soren. His wish to be in a monster movie recently came true. The movie was part live-action, part animation and featured a sword dual between Soren and the stair monster after it kidnapped Soren’s sister. On this night, he received a star-studded greeting fit for a hero – complete with a red carpet, a movie marquee, popcorn and limited edition “Super Soren: Monster Hunter” trading cards.
Doctors diagnosed Soren with Ewing’s sarcoma, a form of bone cancer, when he was just three years old. Soren’s dad, Jack, said the diagnosis hit them like a bomb. He said, “The whole experience of chemo and doctor visits and surgery was like a dark tunnel – something that you could lose yourself in the darkness or you can focus on the fact that you’re moving through it and that there’s something on the other side. That first thing that became something on the other side was the wish and the movie.”
A superhero wouldn’t be complete without his super friends and super fans. Members of the Portland Superheroes Coalition – including Iron Man, Thor, and Robin - stopped by Wish Ball to join Super Soren in greeting fans and posing for photos. Soren even stayed up past his bed time to autograph his trading cards. “To have something that was just an outpouring of attention for [something] positive like that was very transformational for him, “said Soren’s dad.
RAISING FUNDS FOR LOCAL WISHES
More than 500 people got a chance to meet the wish heroes at Wish Ball. Many said that seeing the kids there was inspirational. Attendee Carson York said that he “couldn’t think of a better reason to have a great time with friends and donate money.” Jeremy Solly Tweeted: “One of the best nonprofits in Oregon. So proud to be a part of Wish Ball.”
Together, through a live auction, silent auction, games and inspired giving, we raised more than $356,000 to make wishes come true for local children with life-threatening medical conditions. A special thanks to presenting sponsor Royal Caribbean International, whose generous support helped make the event possible, and to KATU's Debora Knapp for lending her talents as the emcee for the evening.