Wish-Granting Organizations for Sick People

Making dreams come true for someone in your life

Doctor with patient and family
FangXiaNuo / Getty Images

Many local, national, and international charitable organizations are dedicated to granting special wishes for people with a chronic or life-threatening illness. Most of the organizations focus on children, but some of them grant wishes for adults.

Often, the wish that's fulfilled is beyond the financial means of the family or involves celebrities the average person can't contact. That's where these organizations step in. They're funded in numerous ways, including:

  • Monetary donations (individual and corporate)
  • Grants
  • In-kind contributions
  • Fundraising events

These groups are generally non-profit organizations, so donations made to them are tax deductible.

Most wish-granting organizations don't solicit money over the phone, so be sure to investigate if you're contacted by someone claiming to represent them.

Some of the organizations offer very specific kinds of wish fulfillment while others are wide open to possibilities. Due to liability issues, most will not give people motor vehicles or firearms, nor will they grant wishes involving firearms or travel outside the United States (although some do make exceptions for international travel.) They don't pay medical bills or offer other financial assistance, either.

If you're looking for help making a dream come true for someone you love, you have several organizations to choose from. Be sure to pay close attention to the eligibility requirements and the locations they serve.

Wishes for Children

Most, but not all, of the wish-granting organizations are for children only. Each one has its own special areas of focus and its own eligibility requirements. If you take a minute to become familiar with the differences, you can find the best ones for your application.

Make-A-Wish Foundation

Make-A-Wish Foundation is the largest and most well-known wish-granting organization in the United States. The foundation has granted more than 160,000 wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses in the United States, and even more worldwide.

Year Established: 1980

Ages Served: 2.5 to under 18 at the time of referral

Localities Served: International

Wishes Granted Per Year: 15,000+

Who Can Refer:

  • The sick child
  • The child's parents/legal guardians
  • Medical professionals
  • Family members, providing they have detailed knowledge of the child's medical condition

Who Qualifies: The child must have a "critical" illness. Once a child is referred, the organization contacts their doctor to determine eligibility to determine eligibility, looking at whether the condition is progressive, degenerative, or life-threatening.

Types of Wishes Granted: The organization says the possibilities are endless but that most requests fall into one of five categories:

  • Wanting to visit somewhere
  • Wanting to be someone/something for a day (i.e., firefighter, superhero)
  • Wanting to meet a famous person
  • Wanting a special gift (i.e., computer, tree house)
  • Wanting to give something to make the world better (i.e., improving their school, creating a special holiday for the family)

Dream Factory, Inc.

The Dream Factory is grants wishes to chronically ill children as well as the critically ill. It claims to have granted more than 25,000 wishes to chronically ill children.

Year Established: 1980

Ages Served: 3-18

Localities Served: Areas within 50 miles of local chapters; as of late 2019, the website listed 35 chapters in 19 states.

Dream Factory Chapters
Arizona Tucson, Phoenix
Florida Boca Raton
Illinois Peoria, Quincy
Iowa Cedar Rapids
Kansas Overland Park
Kentucky Bowling Green, Lexington, Louisville
Maine Portland, York
Missouri Mexico, Columbia, Kansas City, Osage Beach, St. Joseph, Sedalia, Cape Girardeau, Springfield, St. Louis
Nebraska Lincoln
New Jersey Jersey Shore
New York Brooklyn, Rochester, Ithaca, Syracuse
North Carolina Greenville
Ohio Chillicothe
Oregon Portland
Pennsylvania Wayne
South Dakota Madison
Tennessee Clarksville, Dyersburg, Memphis
Texas Dallas, San Antonio
Utah Spanish Fork
As of November 2019

Wishes Granted Per Year: 200+

Who Can Refer:

  • The sick child
  • The child's parents/legal guardians
  • The physician treating the child

Who Qualifies:

  • Children with a critical or chronic illness, as determined by a physician.
  • They must not have received a wish from a different organization.
  • They must live or be treated near a local chapter.

Types of Wishes Granted: While other types of wishes may be granted, the organization says most requests fall into one of five categories:

  • Meeting a celebrity
  • Fulfilling a dream of the future (i.e., being a firefighter for a day)
  • Getting a special gift (i.e., swimming pool, computer)
  • Watching a sporting event, meeting their sports hero
  • Traveling somewhere special

Where to Apply: Via the referral form on the website.

A Special Wish Foundation

A Special Wish Foundation serves a broader age group than many organizations, but it serves a small region.

Year Established: 1982

Ages Served: 0-20

Localities Served: Ohio and the greater Chicago-land area of Illinois

Wishes Granted Per Year: Information unavailable

Who Can Refer: Anyone

Who Qualifies: Children with a life-threatening disorder who haven't had a wish granted by another organization.

Types of Wishes Granted:

  • A Special Gift (i.e., computer, shopping spree, pet)
  • A Special Place (i.e., amusement part, vacation, visit to a family member)
  • A Special Hero (i.e., celebrity, sports figure)

Where to Apply: The referral form on the website

Children’s Wish Foundation International, Inc.

Children’s Wish Foundation has only one office but grants a huge number of wishes to children worldwide. Programs also exist to provide smaller gifts for children too young to express or remember a wish and for those who have to stay in a hospital for a while.

Year Established: 1985

Ages Served: 0-under 18 at the time of referral

Localities Served: Worldwide

Wishes Granted Per Year: 300,000+ (all programs combined)

Who Can Refer:

  • The sick child
  • The child's parents/legal guardians
  • Other family members
  • Healthcare professionals

Who Qualifies: Children with a life-threatening illness who haven't received a wish from another organization.

Types of Wishes Granted: No limitations or categories listed

Where to Apply: You can apply in one of three ways.

  • Fill out the referral form
  • Fax the form to 1-770-393-0683
  • Call 1-800-323-WISH (9474)

Kids Wish Network

The Kids Wish Network not only grants wishes, but also provides holiday gifts to children’s hospitals, shelters, and other facilities; gifts needed items to military children or at-risk kids; and helps fund funeral arrangements for children under age 21.

Year Established: 1997

Ages Served: 3-18

Localities Served: Nationwide (United States)

Wishes Granted Per Year: Information unavailable

Who Can Refer: Anyone

Who Qualifies:

  • Children with a life-threatening condition (progressive, degenerative, or malignant)
  • Children who've "faced life-altering circumstances with extreme bravery and courage (Hero of the Month program)
  • Can communicate, verbally or non-verbally
  • Hasn't received a wish from another organization

Types of Wishes Granted: No limitations or categories listed

Where to Apply: The referral form on the website

The Granted Wish Foundation

The Granted Wish Foundation focuses on sports-related wishes for physically challenged children and young adults.

Year Established: 2005

Ages Served: 5-25

Localities Served: Nationwide (United States)

Wishes Granted Per Year: 8-10

Who Can Refer: No restrictions listed. Recipient must be over 18 if self-referring.

Who Qualifies: Those with physical challenges diagnosed by a physician. (Intellectual, behavioral, and mental challenges do not quality.) Recipient may not have received a wish from another organization.

Types of Wishes Granted:

  • Attending a game or event of a professional or college team/sports figure
  • Meeting a celebrity athlete

Where to Apply: Mail or email the application and medical authorization form at the bottom of the Eligibility page.

Sunshine Foundation

Sunshine Foundation has a different scope than many wish-granting organizations. It includes the seriously ill, physically challenged, and abused children whose families face financial hardship.

Year Established: 1976

Ages Served: 3-under 19 at the time of referral

Localities Served: Nationwide (United States)

Wishes Granted Per Year: Information unavailable

Who Can Refer: Anyone who has permission from the child's parents/legal guardians

Who Qualifies:

  • Children with severe diagnoses only, including those who are seriously or chronically ill, physically challenged, developmentally delayed, or facing trauma from abuse
  • Cannot have received a wish from another organization
  • Family's annual household income is under $75,000

Types of Wishes Granted:

  • Florida theme parks and accommodations at the Foundation's Dream Village are the most common
  • Other family vacations
  • Meeting celebrities
  • Shopping sprees
  • Adaptive or therapeutic medical equipment not covered by insurance
  • Website specifies that the organization does not help with medical bills or living expenses

Where to Apply: Referral form on the website. Be sure to read the eligibility requirements carefully.

Room Makeovers for Children

Because chronically ill children often spend a lot of time in their bedrooms, some organizations have started doing room makeovers. Not only can new decor make a room more pleasant, it may also have a direct impact on a child's mood, health, and ability to function in the space.

Special Spaces

Special Spaces provides bedroom makeovers for children with life-threatening illnesses.

Year Established: 2004

Ages Served: 2-19

Localities Served: Areas near their local chapters.

Special Spaces Chapters
California Orange County, San Diego
Florida Boca Raton, Palm Beach County
Illinois Chicagoland
Iowa Dubuque
Michigan Tri-Counties
Minnesota Minneapolis
Missouri St. Louis
Nebraska Omaha
Nevada Las Vegas
New York Buffalo
Ohio Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo
Tennessee Chattanooga, Knoxville, Nashville, Tri-Cities
Texas Houston
Wisconsin Fox Valley, Green Bay, Milwaukee
As of November 2019

Wishes Granted Per Year: Information unavailable

Who Can Refer: Parents/legal guardians

Who Qualifies: Children who have cancer, organ transplants, brain tumors, and heart conditions. Illinois chapters focus solely on children with cancer.

Types of Wishes Granted: At-home bedroom makeovers only

Where to Apply: Email info@specialspaces.org

Room to Dream Foundation

The Room to Dream Foundation's mission is to create "healing environments in bedrooms" and focuses on families in need.

Year Established: 2007

Ages Served: Information not listed

Localities Served: Greater-Boston area

Wishes Granted Per Year: Information unavailable

Who Qualifies: Chronically ill children in the greater-Boston area

Types of Wishes Granted: Bedrooms where sick children spend time, in the home, at hospitals, or in other facilities

Who Can Refer: Parents/legal guardians

Where to Apply: Email the organization via its website

Wishes for Adults

Adults with illnesses have wishes, too, and several organizations work to make their dreams come true. There's even one that helps fulfill wedding-related dreams! Be sure you pay close attention to eligibility requirements, though, as many of them focus on a single illness.

If you want a wish granted for a young adult, browse through the organizations that grant children's wishes (above.) Some of them serve people in their early 20s.

Dream Foundation

The Dream Foundation was the first organization to grant wishes to terminally ill adults and it also has a special program just for veterans. It's currently the largest adult wish-granting organization.

Year Established: 1994

Ages Served: 18 or older

Localities Served: Nationwide (United States)

Wishes Granted Per Year: Information unavailable

Who Can Refer: No criteria listed

Who Qualifies: Terminally ill adults who:

  • Have a life expectancy of 9 months or less
  • OR whose disease progression makes them likely to lose the ability to participate in the dream within the next 9 months
  • Are under a doctor's care
  • Lack the resources to fulfill the dream themselves

The Dreams for Veterans program is only for U.S. military veterans who served in World War II or later, including the National Guard and Reserve. Veterans must also meet the criteria listed above.

Types of Wishes Granted: Any request that provides joy and relief. Possibilities mentioned include:

  • Basic needs (i.e., new wheelchair)
  • Vacations
  • Bedside reunions
  • Meeting a personal hero

Where to Apply: Choose the General, Hospice, or Veterans application from the website

Fairy Foundation

The Fairy Foundation says it wants to help adults "temporarily escape the fear and challenges of a life-threatening condition" and provide renewed hope.

Year Established: 2014

Ages Served: 18 and over

Localities Served: Nationwide (United States)

Wishes Granted Per Year: Information unavailable

Who Can Refer: No criteria listed

Who Qualifies: An adult facing a life-threatening medical condition who lacks the resources to fulfill the wish

Types of Wishes Granted: No categories listed

Where to Apply: Application form on the website

Stella's Wish Foundation

Stella's Wish Foundation grants wishes for adults diagnosed with life-threatening cancer.

Year Established: 2009

Ages Served: 18 and over

Localities Served: Nationwide (United States)

Wishes Granted Per Year: 30-40

Who Can Refer: No criteria listed

Who Qualifies: Adults diagnosed with a Stage 4 life-threatening cancer

Types of Wishes Granted: No restrictions listed. Examples on the website included money for household repairs, family vacations, and meeting a sports hero.

Where to Apply: Submit form on website

Fill Your Bucket List

Fill Your Bucket List is only for adults with cancer who live in or are being treated in North Carolina.

Year Established: 2014

Ages Served: 18 and over

Localities Served: North Carolina

Wishes Granted Per Year: Information unavailable

Who Can Refer: Self-referrals only

Who Qualifies: Adults diagnosed with cancer who are able to communicate the wish and comprehend or participate in the wish

Types of Wishes Granted: The website states that wishes can be small or large, and "should first and foremost be about making memories with those you love."

Where to Apply: Nomination form on the website

Wish Upon a Wedding

As the name suggests, Wish Upon a Wedding helps people with serious illness or other life-altering health circumstances with their weddings or vow renewals.

Year Established: 2009

Ages Served: 18 and over

Localities Served: Nationwide (United States)

Wishes Granted Per Year: About 15

Who Can Refer: Self, partner, caretaker, or hospice worker

Who Qualifies:

  • Couples in which at least one person is diagnosed with a terminal illness
  • Life expectancy is less than 5 years (Classic Wish)
  • OR the condition is seriously life-altering (Classic Wish)
  • OR life expectancy is less than 6 months (Urgent Wish)
  • Both partners must be U.S. citizens

Types of Wishes Granted: Weddings or vow renewals, including the features listed on the website. Review the information here carefully and be sure you understand what is and is not covered if your wish is granted.

Where to Apply: Submit application via website

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