Make-a-Wish is a wonderful organization. Countless volunteers and donors help children facing critical illnesses go to Disney World, become honorary police officers or meet their favorite athlete or entertainer.
Mikey Friedman used his Make-a-Wish to help other youngsters enjoy the same electronic devices and games that took his mind off his own battle with cancer.
“When you’re a kid in a hospital, you’re cut off from friends, even family,” notes Mikey’s brother Brian. “You’re isolated and bored.” A laptop and iPod helped 16-year-old Mikey stay engaged — “and feel like a kid again” — despite days filled with medical procedures, IVs, pain and fear.
But not every young patient has that entertainment. “When you’re sick, luxuries are the first thing to go,” Brian explains. “That’s especially true when one parent stops working, to take care of the child.”
Make-a-Wish thought Mikey’s idea was fantastic. He went to Best Buy, loaded a cart with electronics and hand-held devices, then handed them out on the pediatric oncology floor at a Buffalo hospital. It was the start of Mikey’s Way.
The idea snowballed. Today his foundation sponsors 25 to 30 “Mikey’s Way Days” each year around the country. Over 7,000 youngsters in hospitals across the country have joyfully received laptops, iPods, handheld game devices and LeapPads.
Sadly, Mikey is not here to see their joy. He died in October 2008, 4 1/2 years after his diagnosis.
But the Easton native’s legacy lives on. His father runs Mikey’s Way Foundation, and Brian — now a Westport resident, and general counsel for a private asset management firm — sits on the board.
When Brian heard from his friend Eric Ritter that !mpaCT — a new charitable group with a mission to support Connecticut charities — was looking for a great cause for its first-ever fundraiser, he knew exactly what to suggest.
Mikey’s Way is one of 2 beneficiaries of the May 16 event (7:30 p.m., Longshore Pavilion at Norwalk Cove). The other is Kids Helping Kids. They organize coat drives, birthday parties and holiday gifts for underprivileged children, and encourage thousands of students to participate in youth-led service projects.
The May 16 gala includes a full bar with specialty cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and dinner stations, music and a silent auction.
It’s a great start — but !mpaCT is dedicated to making an impact far beyond raising tons of funds.
On May 17, team members begin volunteering with Mikey’s Way and Kids Helping Kids.
(For more information and tickets to the May 16 gala, click here. Hat tip: Megan Rutstein.)