2nd Annual Once Upon a Wish Event Raises Funds For Local Nine Year Old

Caption: Julie and Troy Brandt stand on the stage speaking to their guests on the evening of their Second Annual Once Upon a Wish event. The event is a benefit falling under the reflection of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. (Photo J.T. Gomez, Clovis Roundup)

The Make-A-Wish Foundation was granted their own special opportunity by a few of their volunteer families from the Clovis area. The Brandt, Castello, and Aalto families all worked together to throw their own event under the Make-A-Wish umbrella for the second time in as many years. 

Their Once Upon a Wish fundraiser was thrown to fundraise for a little girl, Scarlett, who’s well on her way to beating acute lymphoblastic leukemia. She looks forward to “ringing the bell” around June 15th after almost 800 days of treatment. Her family hopes that everyone can remember this brave little girl just a bit more on that most magical of days. 

Before that however, Scarlett’s family wishes to take a vacation to Disneyworld on the cost of the fundraising efforts by the three aforementioned families. In speaking with the Brandt family, the note was made, that just as was the case of Scarlett, over 85% of all wishes granted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation are granted to children who end up overcoming their diagnoses. 

The families housed a gathering at the Brandt residence, the setting of their 2nd Annual Once Upon a Wish event. The occasion was catered by the likes of Mad Duck Brewing Company, Diccico’s, Cork & Knife, and Raising Cane’s. The ambiance was set by groups of family and friends speaking aloud to each other over the background of water fountains, music, and an absolutely beautiful sky, not a cloud in sight. 

In speaking with the Brandt family, both Troy and Julie wanted to remember that twenty-five youth volunteers were in attendance for their event and helped with things like serving food or greeting guests as they walked in. Their daughter, Brooke Brandt, helped to coordinate and work with all twenty-five volunteers. “Really a lot of it’s empowering the youth but then also we feel passionate about the kids.”

Those kids Troy was speaking about are the children that the Make-A-Wish Foundation works so desperately hard for including Scarlett. Speaking about Scarlett, Julie let it be known that she was just another student going to Bud Rank Elementary, not unlike many of the families that were at the event.

“A number of the kids here-the families here tonight, they have nine year olds, ten year olds.” 

Troy reminded, “There’s no difference, just luck. It could have been us, it could have been any of these people,” when speaking about the chances of catching a life threatening disease like cancer. 

But families like the Brandt family and even more importantly Scarlett’s family wouldn’t be in the position that they are in without the help and support of the community around them.

“The support really was about [the community] just being aware of it, and then the support has been amazing,” said Troy about getting the word out into the public for this second annual Once Upon a Wish event. 

Julie continued by citing the support of local businesses in Clovis, “We have so many sponsors this year, we have not had to pay anything to throw this event…The generosity of local businesses in Clovis is overwhelming.”

Kim Aalto had nothing but great things to say about the Make-A-Wish Foundation. “It’s about the kids. So all of us have kids and we’re all blessed…With Make-A-Wish it’s about giving to people and kids they need hope, they just want something good.”

Before raffle items were given away to the charitable yet prospective crowd, the Brandt family and Karen Castello took to a stage in the Brant’s backyard and spoke to a then seated crowd.

“It was really exciting to go out in the community this year and have businesses want to support us. Everything you’re seeing tonight really was donated to the cause of the evening,” stated Karen Costello as she spoke to the crowd. “I would walk in [to businesses] and just tell them what we’re trying to do and they’d be like ‘Well how can we help?’”

The families then presented a video produced by Troy Brandt that told the story of Scarlett and her battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. 

Through surgeries, bone marrow biopsies, blood and platelet transfusions, and chemotherapy, nine year old Scarlett still had the empathetic mind to think of others, as one day, while fashioning her new gifted purple princess wig, she told her mother, “Mom every little girl deserves to feel like a princess.”

With that thought, her mother ran with the idea and “Scarlett’s Princess Packs” was born. Through donations a “Princess Pack” is given to children battling cancer who themselves are looking to feel like a princess. They receive a first-aid kit, sunglasses, hand sanitizer, a water bottle, Kleenex, chapstick, stickers, a book, games or puzzles, play-doh, nail polish, crayons, a coloring book, temporary tattoos, fuzzy socks, a toy or doll, a bookmark, and of course a Princess dress, crown, wand and ring.

Between tight finances and having to put her career on hold, Scarlett’s mother relayed through the video that a nice vacation, which will include traveling to Disneyworld and meeting Queen Elsa, would be the perfect opportunity to “..get away from cancer for a few days and just have some fun.”

But Make-A-Wish doesn’t only grant wishes to help families blow off a little steam, but rather in studies done by the non-profit organization 87% of those who were granted wishes say that their wish was a positive point in gathering the strength to beat their illnesses. This was echoed by Troy Brandt, “There’s actual statistics that would tell you that granting a wish to children improves their prognosis.”

Julie Brandt recommends contacting the local chapter of Make-A-Wish and Cortney Snapp, Senior Development Manager for those who wish to help out with this extraordinary contribution to society. Troy explained, “There’s over 200 kids on the waiting list in the Central Valley…it can be six months before they hear back, so there are people who volunteer just to send cards or coloring books to say ‘Hey we’re working on your wish, we’re gonna get it to you soon.’”

The need for assistance is always desired, especially in non-profit organizations such as the Make-A-Wish program. Even though they do receive help from wonderful families such as the Brandt, Castello, and Aalto families, and their Once Upon a Wish event, there is always another child who can be helped. Just as Julie Brandt said at the event and repeated later on the stage, “Every wish needs a wish granted.”

Scarlett’s Princess Packs can be found on Facebook at this link: https://www.facebook.com/ScarlettsPrincessPacks/

To become involved with the Make-A-Wish Foundation: https://wish.org/get-involved

JT is a recent college grad with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. He is mainly interested in sports and entertainment but covers a wide array of subjects. He currently writes for the Fresno State Baseball Dugout Club. JT looks forward to continuing his career at the Clovis Roundup and is excited to be working closely with a community that is very proud of its people.