Kurt Weiss, MDFor over 40 years, the Make-A-Wish has been granting life-changing wishes for children and families. Tens of thousands of volunteers, donors, and supporters advance the Make-A-Wish vision to grant the wish of every child diagnosed with a critical illness. In the U.S. and its territories, a wish is granted every 34 minutes. A wish can be that spark that helps these children believe that anything is possible and gives them the strength to fight harder against their illnesses. This one belief guides and inspires Make-A-Wish to grant wishes that change the lives of the kids served.

For children diagnosed with critical illnesses, a wish come true can be a crucial turning point in their lives. One former wish kid, McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member Kurt Weiss, MD, Associate Professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery’s Division of Musculoskeletal Oncology and Director of the Department’s Cancer Stem Cell Laboratory, agrees.

Dr. Weiss spoke with WTAE Action News about the impact his wish had on him when he was a young boy receiving treatment for osteosarcoma. Osteosarcoma (also called osteogenic sarcoma) is the most common type of cancer that starts in the bones. The cancer cells in these tumors look like early forms of bone cells that normally help make new bone tissue, but the bone tissue in an osteosarcoma is not as strong as that in normal bones.

“I had a weird wish. My wish was to get a new tenor saxophone and play with the University of Notre Dame band at whatever Bowl game they went to that New Year’s,” Dr. Weiss explained.

Wishes are more than just a nice thing. And they are far more than gifts, or singular events in time. Wishes impact everyone involved—wish kids, volunteers, donors, sponsors, medical professionals, and communities. For wish kids, just the act of making their wish come true can give them the courage to comply with their medical treatments. Parents might finally feel like they can be optimistic. And still others might realize all they have to offer the world through volunteer work or philanthropy.

“Where it really helped me and impacted me was in the tough days ahead, that I could look back on the wish and remember fondly how wonderful it was and if I made it through my cancer and continue to do well in school, I could go to Notre Dame,” Dr. Weiss said. He ended up playing in the Notre Dame marching band and was the president of the band when he went to college there.

The headquarters for Make-A-Wish Greater Pennsylvania and West Virginia is located in Pittsburgh. To date, nearly 20,000 wishes have been fulfilled, which is more wishes than any other chapter in the world.

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