Making wishes come true

The Make-A-Wish Foundation is known the world over for its mission of fulfilling the wishes of children with life-threatening conditions.

In Singapore, the organisation has its own wish as well - to grant more heart's desires.

Established in 2002, Make-A-Wish Singapore has granted 1,333 wishes. It aims to fulfil 132 wishes this year, up from 120 last year.

Make-A-Wish community engagement executive Jan Kok, 29, says that, while it has enough volunteers - 250 trained wish granters - the challenge is getting wishes.

He says: "We are able to grant more wishes, but we need more children to be referred to us."

Make-A-Wish wants to grant the wish of every eligible child in Singapore, he says.

Anyone - even the child himself - can refer a child to the foundation, with a medical eligibility form signed by a doctor to indicate that the child has a life-threatening condition for the wish to be granted.

Two to three specially trained wish granters then meet the child's family to capture the wish and design its fulfilment in a way that is creative and memorable. They keep the child excited about the wish and build up his anticipation with something as simple as a calendar that counts down the number of days to the wish being fulfilled or a treasure map with clues that help him find where he will be going to.


A child could have been bubbly before but, because of the medical treatment, he turns into another person altogether. But, on wish day, he becomes his usual self or a happier person. It makes you smile when you see the kids smile.

MR JAN KOK, Make-A-Wish community engagement executive, on the satisfaction as a wish granter .

Every child and every wish are different. Wishes can be broadly categorised into four types - to have, to meet, to be and to go.

Mr Kok believes in the healing power of a wish. He says: "A happy child is a healthy child. Even when a wish has been realised, thinking back on it can inspire and motivate the child. When children are happier, they are more receptive to treatment and heal faster."

With experience in coordinating close to 50 wishes, satisfaction for Mr Kok is very simple - seeing the smile on a child's face.

"A child could have been bubbly before but, because of the medical treatment, he turns into another person altogether.

"But, on wish day, he becomes his usual self or a happier person. It makes you smile when you see the kids smile."


Four-year-old Evangeline Lim's wish was to play an egg hunt in a ball pool. 

Evangeline Lim's wish was to have an egg-hunt in a ball pool. The idea for her wish came about when she saw others doing just that on YouTube.

Her wish came true in March when she got to hunt for more than 50 eggs in a 6,000-ball pool at her birthday party. Evangeline's mother, Ms Shirley Yap, 36, said: "I think she was really happy and you could see the change in her face. Even during lunch, she wanted to go back into the ball pool."

Evangeline had not been in a ball pool since she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, a type of blood cancer, in February last year. She is undergoing chemotherapy even though she is currently in remission.

Initially, Evangeline wished for just ice cream and candy, typical wishes of children.

Evangeline Lim with her father, project manager William Lim, 38, her mother, Ms Shirley Yap, 36, and her baby sister, Esabella, at her birthday party. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN 

"I told Evangeline that the Make-A-Wish volunteer is her fairy godmother and she will grant her wishes," Ms Yap said.

For her wish, a function room at Marina Bay Sands was transformed into a playroom with a ball pool and a bouncy castle for Evangeline and her relatives. There was also a magic show. Ms Yap, a civil servant, was very impressed as they never had such an elaborate party before.

Evangeline's family then had a two-night staycation at Marina Bay Sands Hotel because she likes the bathtub in hotel rooms.

"We don't foresee having a ball pool in our home and this isn't something that we can achieve on our own. I think this is something that will stay in her memory," Ms Yap said of Evangeline's experience.


Sage Tan and his brother, Basil, gleefully carry home boxes of Lego pieces presented to him. He was given 10 more boxes of Lego spaceships to be shared with Basil. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN 

Sage Tan's wish was to build a Lego spaceship that "can fly, can go in the water, can shoot and can drive a lot of people to battle" .

He gets to build a spaceship that “can fly, can go in the water, can shoot and can drive a lot of people to battle”. Helping him is Lego designer Marcos Bessa. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN 

His mother, Madam Cindy Tan, 45, said that as her two boys' rooms are side by side, they each build their own armies and meet in the middle to battle.

11-year old Sage Tan's (blue t-shirt) wish was to build a LEGO spaceship, "Because it's really fun. It can fly, it can go in the water, it can shoot, and drive a lot of people to battle." 

In March, Sage's wish was realised at Singapore's Lego office where he was first "interviewed" for the position of Lego designer by Mr Marcos Bessa, a Lego designer based in Denmark, who was in Singapore to launch a new product range. After being deemed "qualified" for the position, Sage, his brother Basil, 16, and Mr Bessa spent more than an hour building a spaceship, sharing ideas and laughs in equal measure.

Ferrari Challenge driver Martin Berry (left) and Sage share a laugh as he had drew Martin in a colour-penciled drawing. 

Sage was diagnosed with maple syrup urine disease, a rare metabolic disorder, when he went into a coma at the age of two weeks. According to Madam Tan, it was so rare that no other Singaporean had the disease at that time. Before he turned four, Sage had two liver transplants, and has to have immunosuppresant drugs for the rest of his life. Due to his late diagnosis, his brain was affected and it caused developmental delay.

Sage (with binoculars) fervently cheering for Mr Martin Berry at the qualifying session of the Ferrari Challenge at the Singapore Grand Prix last month. He also received a cap autographed by Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN 

Sage also got to cheer for Ferrari Challenge driver Martin Berry when he was invited to the qualifying session at the Singapore Grand Prix last month. They had met in April when Sage put up a Lego spaceship he built for auction at a fund-raising event for Make-A-Wish.

The Sage Battleship went for $1,800 to Mr Berry, who is an ambassador for Make-A-Wish Singapore. The battleship was donated back to Sage.


Eight-year-old Hazrie Alisman Bin Norahman was all smiles as he speaks into the walkie-talkie, communicating with the other Ferrari drivers in the convoy last month. 

Before Sept 10, Hazrie Alisman Norahman could only imagine what it would be like to ride in a Ferrari supercar.

But now he has bragging rights.

Hazrie gets behind the wheel of the Ferrari 599 GTB, which he picked from among the four Ferraris available as it is in blue, his favourite colour. After the ride from Punggol to Toa Payoh, the beaming boy says: “The Ferrari is very fast!” ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN 

Make-A-Wish expanded on Hazrie's wish to ride a drift trike and decided to make it even more special for him. It reached out to a group of friends from the Ferrari Owners' Club to make his day even more memorable.

On the morning of Sept 10, four Ferraris drove to a pick-up point in Punggol. When Hazrie came down from his flat, he was delighted to see the cars lined up for his picking. He chose the Ferrari 599 GTB to ride in as it is in his favourite colour, blue.

Make-A-Wish grants Hazrie’s wish for “something to do with Lego”. Hazrie (in red) is taken to the Piece Of Peace exhibition, which featured replicas of Unesco World Heritage sites built using Lego bricks and a play area for people to build what they want. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN 

Arriving in Toa Payoh, he beamed and said: "The Ferrari is very fast!"

Hazrie had long been anticipating that day, said his stepmother, Ms Risa Koh Ai Ping, 40. Hazrie would ask her every day: "When is my wish coming true for me?"

Hazrie (with blue cap) gets his other wish fulfilled – to ride an electric drift trike. Brother Harriz, 10, rides the one in front. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN 

Hazrie was diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome, a kidney disorder, when he was two years old. It caused him to become very bloated and he was admitted to hospital monthly or whenever he retained too much water in his body.

His father, Mr Norahman Abu Bakar, 37, said Hazrie experienced mood swings from steroid medication and was constantly in pain. He started home dialysis in 2014 and was on the dialysis machine every night for 10 hours or longer. Sleeping was uncomfortable as his movements were restricted.

Before leaving the Lego exhibition at the end of their wish day, Harriz takes a photo for his younger brother at a photo booth to capture memories of the day his wishes were granted. 

This continued until he received a kidney transplant last year, a major operation for such a young boy.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 02, 2017, with the headline 'Making wishes come true'. Print Edition | Subscribe