Photo Courtesy of the Gil family
When 6-year-old Miguel Gil was asked what he wished for, he didn’t say he wanted his cancer to be cured—he wanted to go to Disneyland to meet Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
The Smittcamp Family Honors College at Fresno State helped make his wish come true by raising enough money to send Miguel and his family to the Disneyland Resort for five days and four nights with all expenses paid. They visited both Disneyland and California Adventure Park this January.
Miguel said he enjoyed meeting the many characters from Disneyland, including Cinderella, who joined Miguel on one of the rides.
“I saw Goofy and his friends and I saw Chip and Dale,” he said. “I liked them taking pictures and riding rides with me.”
He said his sister also enjoyed meeting Goofy.
“My sister gave four kisses to Goofy,” he said. “She kissed him a long time.”
The Honors College’s leadership group, Council of President’s Scholars (COPS), partnered with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to fulfill Miguel’s wish.
COPS president Michelle Smith said the honors college chose to work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation for a long-term community service event that would involve many of the honors students.
“COPS made it our goal this year to get the honors students to serve the community as a more united group, rather than individuals performing community service on their own,” Smith said.
Each wish costs a certain amount of money, depending on what it involves. Because Disneyland is close to the Central Valley, it is one of the least expensive wishes.
Smith said the Honors College chose to sponsor Miguel, because his wish was a good way to ease into a semester-long community service project.
Miguel was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in the fall of 2009 on the same day his baby brother, whom he named Julian, was born.
According to the WebMD Web site, ALL is a form of leukemia in the bone marrow, which produces excess lymphoblasts, or immature white blood cells, that crowd out the normal cells and spread to the blood and other organs.
Diana Rambo, the executive director of the Central California Chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, said she enjoyed working with the Honors College.
“I was just delighted to work with the Smittcamp Family Honors College,” Rambo said. “It was wonderful. They were absolutely the best bunch of young people.”
Rambo said the Central California Chapter serves eight counties in the Central Valley and fulfills 90 wishes a year solely through private donations from organizations in the area.
“We’re committed to serving every medically eligible child,” she said.
She said the Make-A-Wish Foundation would be excited to work with the Honors College again.
“We are hoping that this will become a yearly event,” Rambo said.
Rambo said she would like to have more groups from Fresno State get involved with sponsoring wishes.
“I wish some of the sororities and fraternities would look into doing this,” she said.
Miguel’s wish cost $2,500, but the Honors College raised about $3,870 through several fundraising events between September 2009 and December 2009.
The Honors College held a car wash in September, raising about half of the money needed to send Miguel and his family to Disneyland. They partnered with Me-N-Ed’s Victory Grill in November, getting a portion of the proceeds for each large pizza ordered with the proper flier.
The final fundraising event was an auction in December. Students from the Honors College were auctioned off individually or in groups, offering some kind of activity to their buyer. Twelve auction items with a total of 21 people were bid upon.
The Honors College Director Honora Chapman and the director emeritus, Stephen Rodemeyer, also got involved with the auction. Each director auctioned off dinners for eight people in their homes. Rodemeyer’s dinner went for $400 – twice.
Chapman, who is also the associate professor of classics and humanities, said she was impressed with the Honors College students’ fundraising efforts.
“I was amazed to see how quickly the students raised the money for Miguel’s wish through a variety of well-planned events,” Chapman said.
English major Andrea Smith is the COPS secretary and was the main coordinator of the auction.
“It was a wonderful opportunity for the students being auctioned to share their talents or interests with fellow scholars,” Andrea Smith said. “It was also a chance to connect all the students in the program with our cause, and really get them actively involved with sending Miguel to Disneyland.”
She said the auction and other fundraising events were successful because of the students in the Honors College.
“All of the honors students really came together to make this event and fundraiser a huge success,” Andrea Smith said. “The generosity and enthusiasm of the students were the driving force behind the Make-A-Wish project.”
The auction raised about $1,300, sending the total over the amount needed to send Miguel to Disneyland.
Some of the extra funds were used to throw Miguel and his family a welcome home party at Me-N-Ed’s Victory Grill after their return from Disneyland.
Miguel said his favorite part of the party was the food.
“I liked eating pizza,” he said.
Smith said she was excited to meet Miguel.
“When I first met him he came up to me and gave me a hug,” she said. “It was incredible to finally meet him after spending so much time raising money to send him on his special trip.”
Chapman said she enjoyed talking with Miguel and his family.
“It was so wonderful to see how healthy and happy Miguel looked at the party that night,” Chapman said.
The Honors College donated the remaining money to the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s general fund.