How Lethbridge’s Giant Pumpkin Festival impacts Children’s Wish Foundation

Lots of people came out to the Giant Pumpkin Festival for a day of fun and fundraising for the Children’s Wish Foundation on Saturday Sept. 30, 2017

People flocked to Green Haven Garden Centre on Sept. 30 for a day of fun and fundraising for the Children’s Wish Foundation.

There are many different children that are facing life-threatening illnesses each and every day.

Cassidy Taekema was one of those kids, but thanks to the Children’s Wish foundation, was able to still feel like a normal kid throughout her personal battle with Severe Chronic Neutropenia and Graft vs Host Disease.

The Children’s Wish Foundation is able to touch these children’s lives thanks in big part to their different fundraisers throughout the year.

One of these fundraisers is the Giant Pumpkin Festival. The festival has been one of the foundation’s most successful fundraisers in Southern Alberta since it partnered with Green Haven Garden Centre four years ago.

Susan Gordon, Manager, Resource Development for Children’s Wish says that this is a huge fundraiser for the Children’s Wish Foundation.

“We can grant least two or three wishes per year just from this fundraising effort alone.”

The festival is a popular place to go for people and children of all ages. There are many different activities for both children and adults that draw in more and more people each year.

Gordon says that by holding events like this, Children’s Wish is able to provide a sense of normalcy in their lives again.

“It gives the kid and the family just a chance to be a normal family again and you can’t put a price on that.”

One person who was given this normalcy in the past is Cassidy Taekema. Taekema was born with Severe Chronic Neutropenia. This meant that her body couldn’t make a certain type of white blood cell. She was forced to take daily injections to help give her these white blood cells.

But after using the injection for 13 years, she had a mutation in her bone marrow. She was in the beginning stages of leukemia due to  missing part of her number seven chromosome. This resulted in her receiving a stem cell transplant, which unfortunately didn’t go as planned. The result of the stem cell transplant was that Taekema contracted Graft vs Host Disease. Taekema was given an experimental treatment to keep her alive.

Today, Taekema still has some complications, but is overall doing well. Stories of people like this are what the Children’s Wish Foundation is all about. Taekema had the chance to use the foundation in December of 2012.

Gordon says the majority of the wishes the foundation gives are Disney related, but Taekema chose something entirely different.

Taekema said she wasn’t well enough to go on a trip somewhere so she decided to get a room make over.

Taekema said she made most of the decisions on what her room would look like, but was also given a few surprises like a custom bed and desk. She also says she is still benefiting from her wish.

“Years later, I still have the furniture and it helped me get a start on my own, renting a place.”

Taekema said she loves the Children’s Wish foundation because of what they stand for and what they give to the kids.

“Life-threatening illnesses can really take a toll on a kid in so many ways. Going on a trip, getting a room makeover, hanging out with a celebrity for a day, gives them a chance to forget for a bit.”

The Children’s Wish Foundation also allowed Taekema to attend a Gala in Calgary where she was able to sell some of her jewelry, which also shows their dedication to the children they help.

Children’s Wish Foundation continues to provide wishes for many children across Canada thanks in big part to fundraisers like the Giant Pumpkin Festival.

The festival and the awareness of the foundation continue to rise every year the festival is put on.

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